Dancers feel pinch of run-ins with police, legal battles

● Dancers at Club Onyx in Buckhead and Midtown’s Cheetah Lounge went to court in two separate cases in the past year. Last September, the Georgia Supreme Court sided with five Cheetah dancers who sued the city for barring women ages 18-21 from stripping, causing a change in city regulations.

The Onyx suit, meanwhile, deals with a hot-button employment law topic — determining the difference between independent contractors and employees.

Nine Onyx dancers sued the club, alleging it violated federal work rules by misclassifying them as contractors. The suit also alleges the club failed to pay the dancers minimum wage and overtime, and retaliated by firing or suspending them when they sued.

Although the case is pending, the Northern District of Georgia court ordered the club to reinstate the dancers.

● Last October, after a five-month investigation, police raided the 24K Gold Club on Cheshire Bridge Road, arresting a general manager, Greg Stergion; a floor manager; a bartender; 16 dancers; and 10 customers. The dancers didn’t have permits, police said, while employees and others at the club offered cocaine, marijuana and prostitution for sale.

Despite the raid, the club remains open and was able to keep its liquor license, police said.

Michael Baker, another 24K general manager, said recently the club has made some changes and it’s back to “business as usual.”

Meanwhile, some critics say women who enter adult entertainment work may be choosing a path that will be hard to leave.

“If you start a career as a stripper at 18, it’s much harder to break the cycle and get out of the trade,” said Stephanie Davis, a policy adviser on women’s issues to former Mayor Shirley Franklin and now executive director of Georgia Women for a Change, a nonprofit that works to improve the lives of women and girls.

Cindia Cameron of the women’s rights group 9 to 5 called the growing trend of women seeking work in Atlanta’s adult entertainment world “really sad.”

But Angelina Spencer, who heads an industry trade group, argues attention would be better paid to giving women better economic choices.

“If you’re going to pass legislation based on a moral argument against adult entertainment, then pass legislation that gives women and their children an opportunity for educational advancement. Don’t rip the economic rug out from underneath them ... just because you might not like what they’re doing.”

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