AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Augusta strip clubs will now have to make a choice: stay open and don’t serve alcohol or stop the adult entertainment to carry an alcohol license.
The ruling by Federal Judge Randy Hall lifts an injunction ordered 2 years ago as the City of Augusta battled it out with the Discoteque and family of the late Whitey Lester.
The clubs took the city to court saying its ordinance restricts the clubs Freedom of Speech and is too vague.
In the summary judgement Judge Hall says the city’s ordinance is not unconstitutional if it is focusing on the health and safety of the surrounding area “due to the secondary impacts of strip clubs in the area such as increased crime, and lower property values.”
NewsChannel 6’s George Eskola spoke with some of the county commissioners.
“We have ordinances and codes for a purpose I think in this case I think we have to make sure they were following those,” said Commissioner Jordan Johnson.
City code says adult entertainment licenses can’t be transferred following the death or an owner. This happened at the clubs downtown, they sued but the Federal Court ruled in Augusta’s favor.
“Right now, our posture we pretty much need to shut them down, we’re going to put something in place today and we’re going to be moving in that direction,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Bobby Williams.
The clubs have been a part of downtown for decades but after the court’s decision they are now operating in violation of city code.
“The court has spoken and therefore we just follow the instructions of the court hate to lose the business from downtown,” said Commissioner Dennis Williams.
“It’s been down there for 50 plus years I don’t visit those places I don’t know that much about it I would say do what the court,” said Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight.
Under the courts’ order the clubs can still operate as a regular bar but the exotic entertainment will have to take off. Under city regulations adult entertainment clubs are only allowed in areas zoned industrial, not downtown.
The clubs have the right to appeal the court’s decision.