Appeals court rules against Chamblee’s last strip club, dealing critical blow

Follies, a strip club in Chamblee, closed in 2020 after a string of legal losses.

Credit: AJC File

Credit: AJC File

Follies, a strip club in Chamblee, closed in 2020 after a string of legal losses.

The chances of Chamblee’s last strip club reopening likely just vanished.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held up a ruling against Follies that said the club was not entitled to serve alcohol after certain late-night hours. Follies’ owners closed the club last year due to the restrictions, and the failed appeal was one of their last chances to salvage any type of legal victory.

Follies was founded in 1992, but its contested relationship with Chamblee began in 2014, when the city annexed the club and the surrounding area of Buford Highway.

The city’s alcohol codes and hours were more strict than DeKalb County, but a compromise allowed Follies and other late-night establishments to serve alcohol later than city code permitted for a few years. In 2018, Chamblee amended its code to stop serving alcohol at midnight on Sundays and 2 a.m. on weekdays and Saturdays. The change effectively cost Follies 10 hours of business per week.

Cary Wiggins, an attorney who represents Follies and several other late-night establishments in metro Atlanta, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the city unfairly changed those hours after renewing the city’s alcohol license. The U.S. District Court of North Georgia sided with Chamblee, and the federal appeals court affirmed that ruling this week.

“Although Follies had a vested right in its 2018 liquor license, that vested right did not extend to the hours in which alcohol could be sold,” the ruling said. Wiggins did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Chamblee leaders said they were pleased the ruling was upheld.

“The city’s regulations strike the appropriate balance between promoting thriving economic growth and business development while preventing problems associated with alcohol consumption during the overnight hours,” they said in a statement.

Later in 2018, Chamblee adopted an even more restrictive ordinance that banned fully nude dancing, the sale of alcohol at adult establishments and forced nightclubs to close after midnight. Several other cities in metro Atlanta passed similar laws, which effectively forced many strip clubs to shut their doors or operate illegally. Strip club owners and employees said these changes in the suburbs make it impossible to compete with nightclubs in Atlanta.

“With Cheetah and Oasis and Pink Pony, all these other metro clubs operating with full liquor and full nudity, (Follies) would operate with negative cash flow,” Wiggins told the AJC last year.

Follies sued over this ordinance as well but lost. An appeal is pending, making it the Follies last stand in court. Chamblee declined to comment on this lawsuit, since litigation remains pending.

Follies has lost every other legal battle over the past few years.

Chamblee sued the strip club in DeKalb County Superior Court in 2019, claiming the business was continuing to sell alcohol while offering nude entertainment. The court ruled in the city’s favor, and three attempts to appeal the ruling were unsuccessful.

At the beginning of 2020, a raid led to two citations: one for an empty fire extinguisher and another for illegally serving alcohol by the bottle. Follies lost both lawsuits.