Two months ago, a DeKalb County judge ordered Oasis Goodtime Emporium to cease operations.
But the strip club that bills itself as “Atlanta’s best burlesque show” has ignored the injunction and remains open for revelers — while its attorneys add a new layer to an already lengthy legal battle.
In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, attorneys for Oasis claim that city of Doraville is trying to run the club out of business by targeting it with citations and fines. The suit piggybacks on other long-standing claims that the northeastern DeKalb County city pads its budget with a disproportionate amount of code enforcement and traffic violations.
According to the lawsuit, Doraville officials ticketed Oasis or on-site employees 75 times over a one-week span in December.
In a statement provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Doraville officials dismissed the new suit as “a frivolous attempt to avoid complying with valid laws and court orders.” They cited the December injunction from DeKalb Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson, which effectively orders the club to shut down because city ordinances prohibit selling alcohol at sexually oriented businesses.
“Since coming into the City of Doraville at the beginning of 2013, Oasis Goodtime Emporium has sued the city multiple times and lost at every level, in every case,” the statement said. “It is past time for Oasis to comply with Doraville’s valid, court-tested laws and the permanent injunction entered in December 2019 by DeKalb County Superior Court.”
Attorney Alan Begner, who for decades has represented strip clubs and adult novelty shops across Atlanta, argued that Oasis is being targeted because "it raises insufficient [tax]revenue and because other private entities want Oasis' property." The suit referenced a Doraville city councilman's recent comments about a national grocery chain being reluctant to open in the area near the club.
“Doraville’s attempt to extract huge fines from Oasis is not motivated by any legitimate exercise of its police power,” the suit says, “but rather by Doraville’s desire to replace Oasis with a grocery store or other business in order to raise property values and revenue.”
That violates the club’s due process rights, Begner wrote. It’s also emblematic of Doraville’s history of using revenue from code enforcement and traffic violations to bolster its budget, the suit claims.
In 2018, a small group of homeowners and the libertarian Institute for Justice filed their own federal lawsuit against Doraville. That suit — which is still being litigated — argues that the city's budget depends too heavily on code enforcement and traffic tickets, providing an unconstitutional incentive for police officers and municipal courts to pursue minor violations.
Nationwide, a majority of cities with populations of 5,000 or more rely on fees and fines for less than 1% of their budgets, according to the Institute of Justice. That number was close to 19% in Doraville's 2017-2018 budget and about 13% the following fiscal year, according to city documents.
Doraville defended all of the recent citations issued at Oasis, saying each of them was due to the club off Peachtree Industrial Boulevard “committing a specific illegal act that violates the city’s valid laws and the court’s permanent injunction.”
The injunction was issued as part of a DeKalb County Superior Court case that started in late 2015 and has included stops in the state Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court.
While the trajectory of the new federal lawsuit remains to be seen, the club and the city are due back in DeKalb Superior Court next week.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution