Sign outside of the Pink Pony strip club.

The owners of the Pink Pony strip club are suing the city of Brookhaven for $48 million dollars, claiming the city’s sexually-oriented business ordinance is unconstitutional and would destroy the strip club’s business.

The Pink Pony filed the lawsuit in DeKalb County Superior Court on May 13.

Download a copy of the lawsuit

Brookhaven’s Interim City Attorney Bill Riley said he would not comment on pending litigation.

But Mayor J. Max Davis said, “We have a duty to make sure our ordinances protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Brookhaven.”

The 43-page lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the city’s regulations for adult businesses, which prohibit nude dancing with the sale of alcohol.

“The real issue is you’ve got a city just starting with no complaints to get rid of the Pony. You’ve got a business since 1991 that’s had no problems. We have money ready to put in the coffers. They need police officers on the street to prevent what happened in Drew Valley this weekend,” said Aubrey Villines, an attorney for the Pink Pony, referring to a recent rash of burglaries in the neighborhood. “We’re not the enemy.”

The lawsuit, which names Brookhaven’s mayor, city clerk and City Council members as defendants, claims the city’s regulations would force the Pink Pony to close.

“From December 17, 2012, until the present date, Defendants have intended and continue to intend to destroy Plaintiffs financially, as well as its owners, employees and entertainers,” the lawsuit says.

This isn’t the first time the strip club has been in litigation with local governments. Pink Pony and other adult entertainment businesses entered into a settlement agreement with DeKalb County in 2001 that allowed them to continue to serve alcohol in exchange for an increased licensing fee. In 2007, the agreement was extended for 15 years with an option to renew for an additional 10 years, according to the lawsuit.

The owners of the Pink Pony have paid DeKalb County $500,000 over the past 5 ½ years as part of the agreement, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that the Pink Pony’s settlement agreement with DeKalb County is a contract that allows the club to operate in its current format until 2022.

Attorneys say Brookhaven’s ordinance is unconstitutional because it is in conflict with that contract.

The suit also questions the validity of some city decisions, claiming the council has failed to comply with the charter, city ordinances and Roberts Rules of Order since Brookhaven’s incorporation on Dec. 17.

Attorney Alan Begner, who also represents the Pink Pony, said the owners of the club would like for the city to grandfather the club’s existing arrangement with DeKalb County.

“It’s one thing to pass a law that gives new applicants notice that they can’t have a nude dancing and alcohol club based upon a law that was passed before they go to the trouble to rent a building and renovate it and so on,” Begner said. “It’s another thing to put somebody out of business that predates the government by many years.”