Is Sandy Springs' Nude Club Crackdown Legally Sound?
For years, the Fulton County government siphoned tax money out of Sandy Springs, leaving the community of 85,000 with pennies on the dollar. Now, Georgia's newest city may find that its first initiative — ridding itself of adult-entertainment venues — is undercut by a legacy of bad decisions by the very county officials it imagined itself rid of.
That's the theory, anyway, by an attorney who's made a living keeping nude-dancing clubs open in Sandy Springs and around metro Atlanta.
One of the first ordinances adopted by the brand-new city last month bans alcohol from strip clubs and does away with peep-show booths at adult video stores. The new law is based in part on the argument that nude dancing, combined with liquor sales, contributes to a higher crime rate. The ordinance cites supporting studies from as far afield as Manhattan, Texas and California.
But Alan Begner, the lawyer representing Sandy Springs' Maxim Cabaret strip club and the Love Shack novelty store, says the new city's case is hampered by three misguided studies — ordered over the years by zealous Fulton officials — that don't support that contention. The county has never been successful in shutting down adult clubs or denying them liquor licenses.
"They're stuck with the Fulton County studies that show no harmful effects on community crime, especially at the clubs in Sandy Springs," which include Maxim and Flashers, both on Roswell Road, and Mardi Gras on Powers Ferry Road, Begner says.
"Local studies are more relevant than out-of-state studies," he adds. "Those three clubs have existed for 12 years without serious incident."
Surprise testimony by private investigators at the recent Sandy Springs council meetings, however, suggests that the clubs weren't just holding Tupperware parties. The private dicks described in often graphic terms how patrons allegedly received lap dances from bottomless dancers — a legal no-no — and how dancers allegedly solicited for oral sex in VIP rooms.
"If that's true, and I'm not sure it is, that's a shock," says Begner. But even if true, he says, those allegations don't bolster the city's claim that nude clubs incite crime outside their doors.
Begner seems to look forward to reviewing court testimony from 1997 by recently installed Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos in which he says she "lavished praised on the Coronet Club [now Maxim Cabaret] for being no trouble at all because she thought it was a juice bar." In fact, he says, at the time, the club was BYOB.