‘Lives are being ruined’: Employees of troubled strip club plea with Doraville council

Credit: City of Doraville

Credit: City of Doraville

More than 150 employees at a Doraville strip club flooded a city council meeting Monday to plea with city leaders to stop a longstanding legal battle that threatens to close the business.

Oasis Goodtime Emporium has received numerous citations for violating city laws that prohibit sexually oriented businesses from serving alcohol. So far, Doraville has prevailed in the courtroom.

Last month, a DeKalb County Superior Court judge ordered Oasis to pay a $1.89 million contempt fee to Doraville. In addition, the judge ruled that the city could shut down Oasis if it continues to violate the city’s alcohol code. The club’s management and attorneys claim the city is trying to run Oasis out of town, which would cause hundreds to lose their jobs.

“This is your part-time job. This is our full-time job,” Jeff Horwitz, Oasis’s general manager for more than two decades, told council members. He added that Oasis employs roughly 600 people.

Those employees filled up Doraville City Hall during its Monday council meeting, leaving dozens more outdoors to make their presence seen. During the public comment portion of the meeting, several current and former club employees shared what Oasis means to them and how devastating it would be for the establishment to close.

“If I lose my job, I would lose my home,” said Laura Graham, of Lawrenceville, who works as a day shift manager at Oasis. “I have nowhere to go and many others in the Oasis family would be in the same position.”

Hailey Hires, a 22-year-old dancer at Oasis, said the money she’s earned from working at the club allowed her to graduate from Kennesaw State University. She said she’s now pursuing a law degree.

“It’s a very important establishment and a very important family to me,” she said. “And that’s why it’s important for all of us to be here today because my story is not that unique. Every girl out there, every woman out there has children and family and somebody that she’s out there doing this for.”

Jennifer Long, who worked at the Peachtree Industrial Boulevard club for more than 20 years, said the establishment helped her after her son Cameron was diagnosed with cancer years ago.

“Oasis did a fundraiser for my son and raised enough money so I didn’t have to worry about the extra medical expenses that always popped up for all the days of work that I was going to miss for the numerous chemo treatments and hospital stays,” she said, adding that her son is now cancer-free.

Despite the outpouring from employees, Mayor Joseph Geierman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the meeting that he has no intention of changing city laws. The city previously said the club has violated nearly 200 court orders between 2016 and 2018.

“The city’s position has not changed,” Geierman said in an emailed statement. “We understand that times are tough for a lot of people, but our job as elected leaders is to represent our community and do what is best for them. In this case, that means enforcing our court-upheld laws against an alcohol-fueled strip club that has become a nuisance, not just to the surrounding area, but our entire city.”

During the meeting, Horwitz said the recent violations don’t tell the whole story. He said Oasis, which formed in the early 1990s, never received a violation from DeKalb County before the club was annexed into Doraville in 2013. He said in May, Oasis submitted a settlement offer to Doraville — the club offered to pay $7.6 million in permits, taxes and accrued legal fees — but the city rejected it.

Eric Coffelt, an attorney representing Oasis, told the AJC in a statement that the City Council’s strict code enforcement will ruin people’s lives.

“Real people’s lives are being ruined by their so-called ‘enforcement,’” he said. “... They won’t stop until anything unique in their jurisdiction is bulldozed to make room for yet another row of townhouses or large retail chains. It is awful, and real people are paying the price.”

Coffelt and Horwitz also mentioned that Doraville was among the multiple metro Atlanta cities that hired attorney Scott Bergthold, who specializes in defending adult business regulations.

“It amazes me how three members of the City Council, including the mayor, are proud members of the LGBTQ community and allow their own hard-turned tax dollars as residents of the City of Doraville to go to Scott Bergthold,” Horwitz said, alleging the attorney is tied to anti-LGBT groups.

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