The U.S. Supreme Court has denied review of lawsuit over a Sandy Springs ordinance that would ban the sale of alcohol — a major source of revenue — in strip clubs and place strong zoning restrictions on where adult businesses could operate.
A petition for the court to decide the case, Flanigan’s Enterprises, Inc. v. Sandy Springs, was denied June 11, according to the court’s website.
The businesses represented in the case include the adult bookstore Inserection, located on Roswell Road, and two strip clubs: Flashers, also on Roswell, and Mardi Gras, on Powers Ferry Road. The businesses are operating in areas the city’s zoning code does not allow them.
The city is now pursuing an injunction against the businesses the force them to move out of their current locations, where zoning restrictions prevent them from operating, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said in a written statement.
The city expects “full compliance” with its ordinances, she said.
The attorney representing the businesses did not respond to a request for comment.
The Supreme Court in March also declined to review a separate, spin-off case involving the city’s former ban on the sale of sex toys. Inserection was at the center of that lawsuit.
A third adult club, Main Stage/Coronet Club, has a separate legal appeal awaiting a ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court under a separate line of arguments. Alan Begner, an attorney for that business, says that his client may still win in that case on parts not related to the U.S. Supreme Court appeal.
All of the cases originate in a 2006 controversy, when the bookstore and strip clubs challenged new city codes. Since 2009, the codes have been defended by Scott Bergthold, a Tennessee attorney who specializes in municipal laws cracking down on sexually-oriented businesses.
The city has said it has no problem with adult entertainment per se, but argues that it produces crime as a side effect that needs to be controlled. The businesses say the city’s laws are motivated by a bias against their work and intended to make it impossible for them to operate. The businesses sued, claiming violations of the U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments.
In both the main Flanigan’s case and the spin-off Davenport case, the city won in lower courts — but often did so by making last-minute changes to its laws which effectively loosened the intended restrictions on adult businesses. That included greatly expanding the types of zoning areas where adult businesses can operate and reversing the ban on the sale of sex toys.
“The lower federal courts had consistently ruled that the city’s ordinances are constitutional regulations designed to protect the Sandy Springs community from the crime and blight documented to occur in and around adult establishments,” Kraun said.
–Evelyn Andrews and John Ruch
Update: This article has been updated with a statement from the city of Sandy Springs and attorney Alan Begner.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Scott Bergthold authored the city codes in 2006. Bergthold began working with the city in 2009.