Pink Pony, Brookhaven come to terms over nude dancing

Legendary Buford Highway strip club can keep status quo thanks to ‘transition agreement’

The Pink Pony will live on. Last Tuesday, the legendary strip club just off Buford Highway, which has butted heads in public and the courtroom with Brookhaven, reached an agreement that allows the adult establishment to keep pouring booze and offering lap dances to customers.

Last Tuesday, Brookhaven and the Pony inked a deal called a bribe by Brookhaven City Councilwoman Rebecca Williams, a compromise by the strip club’s attorney, and a smart legal move by the mayor. The deal capped off a lawsuit sparked by the two-year-old city’s ordinance that prohibited nude dancing in establishments where alcohol is served, a battle that ended on Oct. 6 when the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the Brookhaven ordinance.

Under the “transition agreement,” the Pony will pay Brookhaven $225,000 annually for the next six years to keep strippers dancing and booze a-flowin’. In addition, the club will deed a piece of the property it owns along Peachtree Creek and donate $75,000 to turn that parcel into a future greenspace with trails — one Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis hopes will one day connect to the Atlanta Beltline. In addition the club had to make renovations to its private rooms, among other conditions.

Brookhaven’s battle with the Pony is the latest chapter in an ongoing saga pitting metro Atlanta governments, particularly new cities, against adult businesses. Before being drawn into Brookhaven’s city limits, the Pony and other DeKalb strip clubs were paying the county $100,000 a year to remain exempt from a similar county ordinance. Brookhaven — in legal filings that cited dubious “secondary effects” rooted in studies conducted in other states — argued they weren’t required to respect DeKalb’s deal. Fast forward to today, and little has changed except the local government getting the cash payment.

Not so, says Davis. Unlike DeKalb, which deposited all the Pony’s payments into its general fund, all cash collected from the Pony will go into a special account to boost police presence near the Pony to combat the warned-against illegal activity. Cash would not be diverted from the budget now that the Pony is pumping out more than $200,000 a year for public safety, he says. It’s also not a license to violate the ordinance, which Davis says he supported “so we don’t become Cheshire Bridge Road on Buford Highway.”

Aubrey Villines, one of the club’s attorneys, considers the compromise a “fair agreement,” he says. “With any compromise you get some things you don’t want and some things you do.”

Villines adds that the Pony thought all along that middle ground would be found, partly because they claim the community strongly supported the club. In addition, the Pony owners were ready to file yet another lawsuit over the city’s alcohol ordinance. The agreement preempts that legal challenge.

And the battle isn’t the final one over strip clubs serving alcohol while also showcasing nude dancing. Alan Begner, one of the Pony’s attorneys, will go before the Georgia Supreme Court to argue whether Doraville can enforce a somewhat similar ordinance in a case involving another client, the Oasis Goodtime Emporium.

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