The Oasis Goodtime Emporium on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard says it's not just a nudie bar any more, it's got artistic merit--and Tuesday, took its case over a denied liquor license all the way to the state Supreme Court.
The City of Doraville says Oasis can't legally sell alcohol because the city ordinances bar it in businesses where there is full nudity.
The ordinance does allow semi-nude dancing, where performers wear pasties and G-strings. The city found Oasis in violation of the rules, and got a temporary injunction issued against the club.
"Your Honor, our position is that we should be allowed to continue operating while we litigate the merits of our argument that the serious artistic value exception in the city's own code now applies to us," argued club attorney Eric Coffelt.
In 2015, Oasis challenged the Doraville code that defines a "sexually-oriented business," but a trial court and the state Supreme Court ruled against them.
A club attorney says Oasis, under the direction of former Republican State Rep. Jill Chambers – now the Oasis artistic director – revamped its performances to comply with Doraville's law before the state Supreme Court's 2015 ruling.
"The code says you can be nude and serve alcohol if you put on entertainment that has serious artistic value, and that's what we've done," says Alan Begner. "We have burlesque, we have aerial acts, we have body painting, we have entertainers who walk around with headdresses. We do lip syncing of famous artists."
Chambers says the club has at least two burlesque shows per day, and also has on its bill performance artists who appear at mainstream venues like 7 Stages, The Tabernacle, or Red Light Cafe.
"We've been in business there for over 26 years," says Chambers. "Doraville annexed us in, and changed the law in order to shut us down."
The city contends that in the months after the state Supreme Court maintained that Oasis is a sexually-oriented business as defined by the city, Doraville officers went to the Goodtime Emporium and observed nude dancers giving lap dances and selling alcohol. That is when they moved for an injunction against the club.
Lawyer Scott Bergthold argues for the city that the club's violations are clear, and that the revamped lineup does not qualify it for an exception under the city's ordinances.
"This business qualified as a sexually-oriented business, specifically an adult cabaret because it regularly featured semi-nudity. Done," Bergthold argued to justices.
He says the code that allows for alcohol sales does have an exception for "theatrical and highbrow arts productions," but that it does not apply to sexually-oriented businesses.
"Oasis does not even challenge any of the overwhelming evidence of their ongoing and regular semi-nudity, nudity, paid sexual contact, and unlicensed alcohol sales," he says.
Begner insists the club is now in compliance, and they expect to win at trial over the issues in question. No trial date has been set.
"We are not ignoring the injunction," says Begner. "We have changed to a format that is legal. We still are serving alcohol, and we are appealing the denial of our alcohol license. We're expecting a trial on both those issues and expect to actually win the trial because we're complying.
"I think we're going to stay open, as long as we stick to our mainstream performance entertainment, I think we will get the alcohol license," he says.
Justices are expected to rule on the case within six months.