Round 2 against Fulton County strip clubs

Having dusted itself off after a bruising court defeat in February, Fulton County is gearing up for another run at pulling liquor licenses from its handful of strip clubs. In addition to prohibiting alcohol consumption at adult entertainment clubs, a proposed ordinance unveiled at last Wednesday's county commission meeting would do away with lap dances, VIP rooms and even mood lighting.

The new rules would require strip clubs to be "lit up like a dentist's office," in the words of strip club attorney Alan Begner, who calls the lighting provision "mean-spirited." Perhaps the county is seeking retribution against its seven clubs for defeating a less-stringent 1997 ordinance that would have likewise halted the flow of booze, but was never enforced due to litigation.

The county made a spectacular blunder in 1997 when it commissioned a local study to show that strip clubs fostered crime and brought down property values, rather than rely on data from other metropolitan areas, as Marietta had done in its successful bid to pull strip club liquor licenses. The Fulton study indicated no such negative effects and the ordinance finally was thrown out by a federal appeals court.

"If you're dumb enough to do your own study and it disproves your contention, you're still obligated to use it," Begner says. Shortly after that ruling, DeKalb County dropped a similar attempt to bar drinking at strip clubs, settling, instead, for higher permit fees.

Even though the Fulton County attorney's office is confident it has drafted a more defensible ordinance this time around, longtime Commissioner Tom Lowe isn't certain the battle can be won: "All we seem to be doing is putting money in Alan Begner's pockets."

Still, Lowe says, he'll probably support the measure. "It's like motherhood and apple pie — if someone waves the flag, you got to vote for it."??

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