Whitey Lester estate files lawsuit against city of Augusta for right to keep strip clubs open

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Monday, May 20, 2019

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The estate of longtime strip club owner Whitey Lester has filed a complaint against the city of Augusta over the rights to keep his clubs open.

The complaint filed alleges the city of depriving Discotheque, Inc., of their rights to operate as a strip club in downtown Augusta.

Whitey Lester's will was probated, meaning it is officially finalized by the courts. Now, the family says the new strip club ordinance is "unconstitutional".

"I just don't understand the big deal," said one Augustan we spoke to.

Call it confusing, call it unfair, but don't call it the end of an era. Discotheque, Inc., versus Augusta-Richmond County, alleges all the current strip club rules threaten rights secured by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, claiming the laws are overbroad, vague, impose restraint on protected expression, adopted without data to support claims.

The complaint from Lester's estate also says the ordinance provides no evidence that Augusta strip clubs cause adverse effects.

The family is asking the District Court "to be free from vague, irrational laws, all of which has caused irreperable harm."

Whitey Lester operated the two clubs on Broad Street for about 47 years, and the suit says for many of those years the nightlife there had no crime incidents. We checked across the last four years, and only about two dozen 911 calls are relatively low compared to the upper end of Broad Street.

Discotheque, Inc., says that since 1994 the city has unfairly tried to eliminate strip clubs. That same year, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Lester family, saying in part, Augusta failed to prove the new strip club ordinance was unrelated to the suppression of speech.

All ten commissioners, as well as Mayor Hardie Davis, are named in the complaint. The notice comes 25 years after Discotheque, Inc., sued the city for similar suppression allegations after the city introduced the ordinance that would close strip clubs in downtown Augusta. In that 1994 case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Discotheque, Inc.

Whitey Lester, who owned Discotheque and Vegas Show Girls, died April 19th in Tennessee. Earlier this year, commissioners voted that his businesses would have to shut down or move to a building in an industrial zone upon his death.

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