Sandy Springs Police raided three strip clubs on Dec. 14, charging three people with sexual solicitation and issuing a total of 34 citations for “physical contact” and unlicensed workers, according to a police statement.
The city and the three clubs—Flashers, Main Stage/Coronet Club and Mardi Gras—have been in legal battles for more than a decade as officials say the clubs create crime. All three clubs have lawsuits or appeals pending against the city alleging violations of their constitutional rights.
The Dec. 14 raids are described in a police press release as “compliance checks” that come from an investigation that started in September “involving illegal activity taking place inside the clubs.”
One arrest was made at each location on charges of “solicitation of an illegal sexual act,” according to the press release and Sandy Springs Police Capt. Mike Lindstrom. Under Sandy Springs city code, solicitation could mean prostitution, “sodomy for hire” or “masturbation for hire.”
In addition, a total of 34 citations were issued to employees at the three clubs, according to the police statement. That statement did not provide any list of specific citations, but did cite three sections of city code that various employees allegedly violated. Those sections include a ban on strip club customers having any physical contact with dancers’ bodies or clothes; a requirement that all employees have special work permits; and a ban on employing minors or anyone without those work permits. The Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for more details about the citations.
According to WSB-TV, one of its reporters got to ride along with police on the unannounced raids.
Cary Wiggins, an attorney representing Flashers and Mardi Gras in lawsuits against the city, declined to comment beyond saying he is “still trying to figure out what happened and why it happened.”
City Attorney Wendell Willard said the police raids do not affect or involve the pending lawsuits and appeals.
“The arrests are totally separate from the litigation,” Willard said in an email. “Work by city police found numerous criminal and city code violations. Any business operating in the city shall comply with the laws governing business operation and conduct of its employees. If they don’t, charges will be brought and they will answer to a judge.”
Earlier this year, the city won a major lawsuit from Flashers, Mardi Gras and the adult bookstore Inserection that alleged new zoning rules essentially banned adult businesses from the city. That case is under appeal.
Main Stage/Coronet Club still has a pending lawsuit alleging the city is violating its civil rights. The city won yet another recent adult-business lawsuit, where Inserection challenged the city’s ban on selling sex toys, but the store is appealing that decision.
Meanwhile, the city has a pending lawsuit of its own dating to 2011, where it alleges the clubs were involved in previous illegal activity.
Also this year, the city established a new ordinance allowing certain businesses to be ruled “public nuisances” for repeated sexual activities violations, meaning the landowner could be punished, not just the business.
Sandy Springs’ legal restrictions on strip clubs and adult bookstores have been organized and defended in court by Scott Bergthold, a Tennessee attorney specializing in such crackdowns on sexually oriented businesses. Several other local cities also have employed Bergthold, who was criticized this summer in anonymous mailers calling on the city to settle the strip club lawsuits. Jill Chambers, a former Dunwoody state representative who regularly advocates for the Doraville strip club Oasis at that city’s council meetings, said she designed those cards but did not mail them.
Flashers and Main Stage/Coronet Club operate along Roswell Road, while Mardi Gras is located in the shopping center at Powers Ferry Road and New Northside Drive.