ATLANTA (CBS/AP) They are old enough to strip, but not old enough to drink, and the city of Atlanta is saying that they can't do either with a new law that says people not old enough to drink can't work in clubs where liquor is served.
Now, five young exotic dancers have taken the city to court in order to continue dancing at Cheetah Lounge, one of Atlanta's most popular strip clubs. On Monday they took their case to Georgia's top court, arguing the law is a naked attempt to target nude dancing spots.
The 19 and 20-year-old exotic dancers were regular showgirls at Cheetah in 2007 when the city passed the ordinance aimed at curbing under-age drinking. The law banned anyone under 21 from entering a store that sold alcoholic beverages on the premises.
It exempted convenience stores, stadiums, concert halls and a slew of other places, but not adult entertainment clubs that make most of their money from alcohol sales. That meant the five young women's days at the Cheetah Lounge were numbered.
They filed a lawsuit claiming the ordinance was unconstitutional because it violated their free speech. After a trial judge ruled in favor of the city in January, they quickly appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Alan Begner, an adult entertainment attorney who represents the five women, labeled it a right-to-work case. He said his clients have the right to vote, to sue, to serve in the military; but suddenly were stripped of the right to strip.
"They are adults and there's no good reason to deny them a right to work, a right to be first-class citizens," he said.
He accused city council members of adopting the ordinance with no evidence that the dancers were underage drinkers, and called it a misplaced effort to single out strip clubs instead of other problem spots.
"Convenience stores are where underage teens go to drink," Begner said. "And that's where 15-year-olds can sell to them."
City attorney Amber Ali Robinson countered that the ordinance doesn't ban women under 21 from nude dancing; only from dancing in the strip clubs that make most of their revenue from selling alcohol.
She urged the court not to flout the will of city leaders seeking to tighten alcohol rules, and asked the justices to find that the ordinance helps to fight "the evils of underage drinking."