Brookhaven, GA, June 24, 2016 – by Trey Benton – Legal fees continue to pile up in the fight between the City of Brookhaven and Stardust, a retail store “that sells adult toys and novelty products; party supplies, and a complete line of smoking accessories” located at 3007 Buford Hwy. According to City records, legal fees have topped the $269,000 mark, and the meter is still running with little sign the case will end soon.
Chattanooga Attorney, Scott Bergthold, who essentially wrote Brookhaven’s Sexually Oriented Business (S.O.B.) ordinance single-handedly, has since been getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars defending it on Brookhaven’s behalf. Bergthold was the same attorney that was paid $283,000 in the highly contentious battle with the Pink Pony, which ended in a settlement agreement back in November of 2014.
Shortly after becoming a city in December of 2012, Stardust opened their business. The city says Stardust’s owner Michael Morrison, claimed his store would be a retail smoke shop selling tobacco, pipes, and other novelty items. After about two months in operation, the city says in court records the store told Brookhaven they would also begin selling items described as “sexual devices” in Brookhaven’s S.O.B. ordinance. The problem starts there because before Brookhaven had a chance to respond to Stardust’s notice, “sexual devices” began to pop up throughout the store’s sales floor.
Because of those actions, the City says Stardust therefore began operating a Sexually Oriented Business, specifically a “sexual device shop,” in “violation of multiple laws,” including city ordinances prohibiting a sexually oriented business at that location because of its proximity to neighborhoods and a strip club. Brookhaven’s code enforcement officers issued Stardust more than 500 hundred citations in 2013.
According to Stardust owner Michael Morrison, the city has harassed him and his employees by claiming his business is a Sexually Oriented business. Thus, Stardust filed a lawsuit in DeKalb County Superior Court claiming the city’s ordinances violate the State and Federal constitutions. Stardust also suit in Federal Court after the city denied Stardust’s sign application.
The City contends Stardust is in violation of their occupation tax ordinance as well as its S.O.B. ordinance, which was previously upheld by the Superior Court in Pink Pony v. Brookhaven. “As with any business,” says the city, “Stardust is required to follow the law. The city will vigorously defend this lawsuit and will pursue compliance with city ordinances.”
The case is before U.S. District Court Judge Eleanor Ross. Today, Stardust is continuing to sell the “sexual devices” pending the Court’s final decision. Oral argument in this case is scheduled for Thursday, August 4, 2016 at 10:00 AM in Courtroom 1708, U.S. Courthouse, 75 Ted Turner Drive, SW, Atlanta, Georgia.