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By Eric Stirgus July 22, 2013

Pink Pony ad warns fight could cost jobs

We couldn’t resist.

The folks who run the Pink Pony Gentlemen’s Club recently paid for an ad in a community newspaper claiming several hundred people would be unemployed if a city of Brookhaven ordinance forced the strip club to shut its doors.

Dancers. Bartenders. Even "house moms."

We’ll get to the house moms in a minute.

"FACT," the ad says in red letters. The ad said the city’s ordinance would put "300 Pink Pony employees out of work in this economy."

A colleague saw the ad in a DeKalb County newspaper and forwarded it to us. The ad included a prior fact check we wrote looking into the Pink Pony’s claim that management has never been cited for a violation of a state law or ordinance. That one was rated True.

We at PolitiFact Georgia are typically digging into technical topics and slogging through long reports; so we virtually danced (with our clothes on) at another opportunity to fact-check a claim by the club. Does the Pink Pony really employ 300 people?

"Three hundred might be a conservative number," said Aubrey Villines, an attorney who specializes in First Amendment issues who represents the club.

In May, the Pink Pony filed a lawsuit against the DeKalb County municipality claiming Brookhaven’s ordinance to regulate sexually oriented businesses would put the club out of business. Specifically, the ordinance would prohibit nude dancing, with or without serving alcohol. The city has said it will not enforce the ordinance until a DeKalb County Superior Court judge rules on its legality.

The lawsuit is serious business, Villines says. The Pink Pony claims Brookhaven would lose $450,000 a year in property and sales taxes, along with license and permit fees. It’s also a big deal for Brookhaven taxpayers, who are paying legal fees associated with the lawsuit.

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There’s been plenty of news coverage over the years about how the strip club business has made it rain with greenbacks in Atlanta. (See: The Gold Club, Adam "Pacman" Jones.) Cab drivers, food delivery workers, they all make money off the Pink Pony, Villines said.

"If we leave that area (of Brookhaven), it will cave under," Villines said, stressing that was the main point of the ad.

Villines estimated the Pink Pony employs about 200 dancers. Some work there a couple of days a week, he said. Others, he said, work as many as five days a week. There’s the bartending staff, servers, the kitchen crew, security, disc jockeys, the janitorial staff. And, yes, house moms.

House moms, Villines explained, are women who help dancers if they encounter work-related trouble, such as a flat tire en route to the Pony. Their duties include making sure the dancers don’t drive home under the influence.

"They’re the first line of defense," Villines said of house moms.

The Pink Pony, though, wouldn’t show us any proof that they have 300 people on the payroll. They couldn’t reveal that sort of information, Villines said.

DeKalb County, though, requires strip club dancers, waitresses, bartenders and bouncers to get an annual license to work at adult entertainment establishments. The dancers pay $300 a year; the other occupations pay $200 a year.

As of July 18, there were 352 men and women licensed to work at the Pink Pony, county records show. The records do not show each employee is currently working there.

So, there are more than 300 people currently licensed to work at the club, which is more than what the Pink Pony claimed in its ad.

Still, we don’t know if all of them are regularly working there. Do the majority of the 200 or so dancers work two days a week? Once every two months?

The Pink Pony claim is partially accurate, but it ignores a lot of context that would give a reader a different impression.

We rate this claim Half True.

Our Sources

Reporter Newspapers, Pink Pony ad, June 28-July 11, 2013, Page 5.

Email from DeKalb County Police Department (information regarding work licenses), July 18, 2013.

Telephone interview with Aubrey Villines, attorney for the Pink Pony, July 12, 2013.

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