Actual Factual: Why are there no strip clubs in Gwinnett County?

Gwinnett County code bars srtip clubs like The Oasis in Doraville.
Gwinnett County code bars srtip clubs like The Oasis in Doraville.

Credit: Oasis Goodtime Emporium

Credit: Oasis Goodtime Emporium

This is "Actual Factual Gwinnett," a regular column in which I, Amanda Coyne, answer reader questions about Gwinnett happenings and history. Enjoy!

I have a confession. This wasn’t a reader question. It was mine.

When a colleague mentioned a story involving an arrest at a DeKalb County strip club, I wondered aloud, “Why doesn’t that happen in Gwinnett?”

It’s because there are no strip clubs in Gwinnett County.

“But, why?” you ask. “Why do I have to drive out of the county to experience some adult entertainment?”

The answer to that lies in two separate pieces of county code.

Article XI, Chapter 18 of the Gwinnett County Code of Ordinances declares that "adult establishments" — a category that includes strip clubs — are "associated with a wide variety of adverse secondary effects," including prostitution, violent crime, drug use and "potential spread of disease."

This article, which cites dozens of court cases and academic studies, also includes adult arcades, adult bookstores, adult movie theaters, “semi-nude lounges” and sex paraphernalia stores.

This article doesn't ban strip clubs or other adult establishments, but does put strict regulations on them. Each individual employee must have a county license to hold a job in an adult establishment, and no adult establishments may be open between midnight and 6 a.m.

The article also bars all patrons and employees of adult establishments from appearing in “a state of nudity.” This effectively prevents any stripping from occurring, since some state of nudity is the general outcome of a strip routine.

The article does permit employees to appear “semi-nude,” exposing women’s breasts or men and women’s buttocks, but they must be at least six feet from all patrons at all times on a stage at least 18 inches off the floor.  Employees who are semi-nude are not allowed to touch customers or their clothing. The operator of the adult establishment also must be present in any room where there is a semi-nude employee and a customer.

Alcohol is also barred from adult establishments, cutting off what is typically a significant source of revenue for a strip club.

Article IV, Chapter 74 of the Gwinnett County Code of Ordinances regulates where adult establishments can operate. If they are in an unincorporated part of Gwinnett County, adult establishments must be at least 1,000 feet away from churches, schools, public parks, day care facilities, another adult establishment or any parcel of land classified under one of 28 specified zoning districts. They also must be 500 feet from any business that sells alcohol.

Neither article bans strip clubs or other adult establishments outright, but heavily regulates them, and bans some of the things (alcohol and full nudity) that customers expect.

So, if you want to make it rain in the club, make sure there’s gas in your car. You’re going out of the county.

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