Strip club owners file suit against City of Augusta

Strip club owners file suit against City of Augusta
Discotheque Lounge in Augusta (Source: Lex Juarez)

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - The future of Augusta’s strip clubs has been in question for the past few months.

Back in February, Richmond County commissioners voted against an ordinance that would allow the business to transfer to an heir after Lester died. Now, the estate of the late owner, James “Whitey" Lester, is taking it to federal court. A lawsuit was filed Friday, May 13 and puts the existence of the downtown strip clubs in the hands of the courts.

The lawsuit names the City of Augusta, Mayor Hardie Davis, and each commissioner as defendants. Depending on how it plays out, the flashing neons lights and dancers that have been part of Broad St. since 1971 could be a thing of the past.

The lawsuit claims Discotheque Inc.'s and Lester’s estate’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights are being violated. The Alcohol Code, the Adult Licensing Code, and the Adult Zoning Code are cited, saying they are over-broad, vague, and violate freedom of speech and expression.

At the Commission meeting on Tuesday, some officials responded to the lawsuit.

We have zoning put in place for a specific reason. And this place has had to renew their license every year with the understanding that one day, their license won’t be renewed because they fall outside of zoning.
District 8 Commissioner Brandon Garrett
They’ve had since 2003 to get a license to transfer or fight it, per se. This is something previous commissions put in. We’re not going to change our mind as a commission. I guess they would end at the end of the year, unless there were legal ramifications.
District 7 Commissioner Sean Frantom

The estate is asking for a temporary injunction on code enforcement while this plays out in court and is hoping for a permanent injunction.

Even if the clubs are shut down, that doesn’t rule out adult entertainment in Augusta. If an interested party wanted to open a strip club somewhere that meets all the requirements, it’s likely their license could be approved.

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