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What’s next for Augusta’s strip clubs after latest court ruling?

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 6:25 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - To stop serving alcohol or adult entertainment. It’s the choice strip clubs in downtown Augusta now face after a new court ruling. It’s the latest development in a decades-long battle over the future of strip clubs on Broad Street.

This new court ruling stems from a lawsuit filed back in 2019. That’s when the city of Augusta passed an ordinance to make strip clubs on Broad Street choose to either move locations or shut down. The owner of the Discotheque Lounge filed suit a few months later alleging the city violated the First Amendment’s promise to free speech. That suit has been going through the courts up until this week when a judge ruled to side with the city.

That ruling puts strip clubs back in the position to either make a move or close their doors.

What’s next for these clubs is still the number one question. Will they stay without dancers — or go somewhere else? Regardless new development is expected to change this section of Broad Street.

The lower end of Broad Street is mostly quiet, but at night the neon sign of the Discotheque Lounge lights the street.

“This end of town is no worse than any other section of town” said Bill Prince.

Being just one of a few businesses across the railroad, Bill Prince has seen Augusta’s strip club saga from the beginning. The news of the city’s win didn’t surprise him, instead it worries him.

“What really bothers me in the end is suppose this same community decides they don’t want a liquor store on this block” said Prince. “I think, somebody just wants the property in the long run.”

The Discotheque lawsuit came after commissioners decided Broad Street wasn’t the place for strip clubs. So they gave an ultimatum — lose the dancers or be stripped of your alcohol license. If the clubs leave that just makes room for other development.

“Now I think we’re starting to see the momentum, in a way that all of Augusta has been waiting to happen,” said Matt Aiken, commercial realtor with Sherman and Hemstreet.

Aiken says blight and the nudity business of the clubs has kept buyers away but the tide is turning and properties are selling.

“As you start to see new construction grow in this area, it may spur on other things, it may spur on other investors to come” he said.

Aiken says we might see restaurants, lofts and other businesses on the 500 block of Broad St. soon.

The 5th street pedestrian bridge project is under construction and the Broad Street Renovation plan is set to start next year.

Prince just hopes the new development, doesn’t push him out.

“If they put restaurants and other things to create traffic it would help my business, but I don’t think you’re suppose to knock someone out to help someone else” he said.

We reached out to Discotheque to ask if they plan to stay put without adult entertainment or move to another locations in the county so they can keep both the alcohol and the adult entertainment, we did not hear back.

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