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City lets strip clubs keep operating with court case pending

December 29, 2019 GMT

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Two strip clubs will keep operating in downtown Augusta while they challenge the city’s zoning laws.

An agreement between city government and the clubs was filed in federal court last week,

The Augusta Chronicle reported.

The heirs of James “Whitey” Lester sued the city in May, saying city zoning laws violate constitutional guarantees of free speech and equal protection.

A 1997 city ordinance decreed that businesses in heavy industrial zones could host nude dancing or serve alcohol, but not do both. While four other strip bars closed, Lester’s two businesses were grandfathered and continued to operate.

Earlier in 2019, Lester asked the commission to allow him to transfer licenses to operate the Discotheque Lounge and Joker’s Lounge to a relative. Augusta commissioners rejected the request.

Lester died April 19 in Maryville, Tennessee, according to his will. In that document, Lester asked that his granddaughter Jennifer Henderson continue as the manager of the Discotheque.

Augusta Commissioner Dennis Williams said he doesn’t “have a problem” with the agreement, saying people who oppose the operations can just stay away.

But Commissioner Brandon Garrett said that 20 years is enough time for the exception to last. He notes that developers have threatened to sue the city if the two clubs remain open past the end of the year.

“We’re going to be sued either way,” Garrett said.