Pink Pony to Georgia Supreme Court: We just wanna dance

Uncertain whether baby city enforces ordinance banning exotic dancing and serving alcohol


All the Pink Pony wanted was to continue doing what it had done for nearly 20 years: serve booze and showcase nude dancing. But Brookhaven wanted nothing to do with it. And now the legal fight between the new city and longtime strip club might be settled in the Georgia Supreme Court.

On Dec. 22, as most of metro Atlanta rushed to wrap Christmas presents and responsibly sip eggnog, a DeKalb County Superior Court judge dismissed the Pink Pony’s lawsuit against the city. The strip club claimed that a Brookhaven ordinance passed last May by the baby city banning nude dancing in establishments that serve alcohol was unconstitutional. If enforced, the Pink Pony argued, it would force them to close their doors on the business located just off Buford Highway. By the end of the week, the strip club’s lawyers had filed an appeal to Georgia’s highest court.

Since the early 2000s, the strip club had operated under an agreement with DeKalb County that allowed it to continue showcasing nude dancers and pouring drinks, provided it pay $100,000 in annual licensing fees. It wanted Brookhaven to respect that arrangement and grandfather in the strip club. Brookhaven, which was being advised by an attorney well-versed in similar battles, declined. In addition to the lawsuit, the strip club launched a public relations campaign. And some residents wanted the baby city to back off the long-standing adult business.

Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis said in a statement following the lawsuit’s dismissal on Dec. 22 that he was, as expected, “very pleased” with the outcome. He also said the judge “upheld Brookhaven’s sexually-oriented business regulations and resolved the numerous legal issues Pink Pony asserted in this lawsuit.”

We’ve yet to see a copy of the judge’s order. But according to Alan Begner, the lead counsel for the Pink Pony and longtime legal eagle to metro Atlanta’s adult establishments, the DeKalb ruling is a first for him. Rather than going through the process of discovery, the judge opted to dismiss the case outright. If allowed to stand, he argues, the ruling could hamstring other people’s abilities to mount constitutional challenges in court.

The big question now is whether Brookhaven will actually enforce its ordinance. A city spokesperson last week said officials are “currently consulting the city’s legal team to fully understand the court’s decision and discuss plans for enforcement.”

Until then, Begner said, it’s business as usual at the strip club.

“We will continue like we were before, which is dancing and serving alcohol,” he said. “If Brookhaven thinks this is a big victory and they can start enforcing their law against us and try to put us out of business, and the Supreme Court of Georgia sends the case back, then the amount of damages that will have occurred in the 10 months or so to now, will easily exceed $20 million.”

Begner notes that’s a conservative estimate.