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Monday, September 19, 2011

Brouhaha over Decatur strip club's 'breakfast bar' makes way to Georgia Supreme Court today

Georgia's highest court will hear arguments today that could determine whether Pins Up, a Decatur strip club, should be allowed to remain open until 7 a.m. to operate a "breakfast bar." The Georgia Supreme Court's public information officer passes along the most delightful case summary from today's docket:

FACTS: At issue in this case is a judge’s refusal to grant a temporary injunction banning the enforcement of the amendments until the case is resolved in court. Pin Ups is a club in Decatur that offers nude dancing and drinking. In June 2010, the County amended the Alcohol Code requiring all licensed establishments that sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption to clear out patrons and close by 4:55 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, and by 3:55 a.m. Sunday and Monday. The stated purpose was “to improve the quality of life in all of its communities” by minimizing the “deleterious conduct associated with” alcohol. Pin Ups offers a “breakfast bar” to its patrons, serving food until 7:00 a.m. It closes at that time, then reopens at 9:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. Pin Ups sued the County, seeking a preliminary injunction until the case was resolved. It argued the amendments forced it to close down for hours a day; impeded its breakfast business; and violated its constitutional rights to due process and First Amendment protections. The trial court denied the request for a temporary injunction, and Pin Ups now appeals to the state Supreme Court.

ARGUMENTS: The club’s attorney argues that no alcoholic beverages are served at Pin Ups after 3:45 a.m. during the week, as mandated by the ordinances. In addition to deriving substantial income and goodwill from the breakfast bar, the service is helpful to customers who have consumed too much alcohol. The trial court erred because the requirement to clear the premises is not consistent with the legislative purpose. “Requiring commercial patrons who have not consumed alcohol for at least one hour to exit Pin Ups and drive their cars rather than remaining on premises… is arbitrary and capricious,” the attorney argues in briefs. Nude dancing is a constitutionally protected activity. The trial court also erred in concluding that Pin Ups has another legal remedy, which is to sue for damages if it suffers injury due to the ordinances. And the trial court was wrong to conclude that a preliminary injunction would give a “special exemption” to Pin Ups. Finally the trial court erred, the attorney contends, in denying the injunction on the ground that the ordinances are a valid exercise of municipal authority under the 21st amendment, which repealed prohibition. But “the provision of alcohol is not an issue in this case,” the attorney argues, calling the ordinances “irrational” and “unconstitutional.”

The County argues a temporary injunction is “an extraordinary remedy, and the power to grant it must be prudently and cautiously exercised.” The County has the power to regulate establishments licensed to sell alcohol on premises, and Pin Ups’ challenges to the amendments on first amendment grounds “do not hold any significant likelihood of success,” the County’s attorneys argue in briefs. “Pin Ups’ mere allegation of some anticipated injury to its breakfast bar business is insufficient to establish standing to challenge the constitutionality of the amendments to the Alcohol Code.” There is no evidence Pin Ups has suffered an injury.
The trial court was correct in concluding PinUps had an adequate remedy under the law. If Pin Ups suffers a loss of income and good will, those items can be recovered in a lawsuit for money damages.

Ask yourself, noble justices of the state Supreme Court: What would the Founding Fathers do?

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