A Georgia zoning dispute is continuing, but two Augusta strip clubs are continuing to do business while the issue winds its way through the federal courts. Local newspapers reported that an agreement between the clubs and the city government was filed in the pending case to allow business as usual to proceed until the issue is decided. The lawsuit was filed in May 2019 by the heirs of a man who owned two strip clubs located in an area of the city zoned for heavy industrial use. In 1997, the city passed an ordinance that companies located in these types of zones could either host nude dancing or alcohol sales but would not be permitted to offer both.
Four other competing strip clubs in the area closed, but the man’s two clubs were grandfathered in and continued to run as normal. Before his death, the man requested the exemption to continue if he transferred his business licenses to a relative. However, the request was rejected. The man died on April 19, 2019, and he named his daughter as the manager of the businesses in the document. The lawsuit seeks to challenge the zoning restriction as an unconstitutional violation of equal protection rights and freedom of expression.
City officials were divided on the decision to allow the clubs to operate while the lawsuit moves forward. Some said that people who opposed the businesses should choose not to patronize them, while others warned that more problems could ensue by allowing the clubs to function. One city commissioner said that developers have threatened lawsuits if the clubs continue to operate.
Land use and zoning disputes can be costly, especially when grandfathered businesses must change hands due to death or incapacity. A real estate attorney might advise business owners on how they can handle zoning issues or challenge unfair restrictions.