Is It Art Or Obscenity?

The line between what’s artistic and what’s prurient has always been a bit fuzzy, though not hard to find. As Justice Potter Stewart pointed out, one may not not be able to define obscene material, but can still “…know it when [he sees] it.”  And former State Representative Jill Chambers is adamant that her efforts on behalf of the Oasis Goodtime Emporium are clearly art. As noted by the venerable art critics at the AJC’s Political Insider and the Georgia Report, Chambers is the artistic director for Oasis, and under that direction the emporium offers acts of “serious artistic value.”  Body painting. Headdresses. Aerial acts. And we are reliably informed of the occasional poetry reading, which surely must confound the lunch-bucket regulars.

Former  State Rep. Jill Chambers, R-DeKalb, in the Georgia State House, an emporium noted for its lack of good times. (2009 AJC)

Chambers says the club has at least two burlesque shows per day, and also has on its bill performance artists who appear at mainstream venues like 7 Stages, The Tabernacle, or Red Light Cafe.”

Of course they do. And of course this fight is not over freedom of expression or even the First Amendment right to shake one’s money maker at strangers. It’s about selling booze. 

The City of Doraville says Oasis can’t legally sell alcohol because the city ordinances bar it in businesses where there is full nudity. The ordinance does allow semi-nude dancing, where performers wear pasties and G-strings.”

The Oasis has been ranked as one of the top 11 Strip Clubs in Atlanta, and Georgia is ranked as the 6th-most strip-club friendly state in the union. But the rankings miss the true purpose of all these venues, which is the use of nekkid ladies as an inducement to sell alcohol. (Since either of those is just fine ALL BY THEMSELVES, why you need either one as an inducement for the other is one of life’s great mysteries.)

But that’s where the argument between freedom of expression and morally dubious activities ends up. The nekkid ladies could be as artistic as they wanted, and nobody would care if alcohol weren’t involved. And of the thousands of bars across the metro Atlanta region, nearly none require nudity of either their customers or their staff. But lawyers for the adult entertainment industry have done a remarkable job casting these controversies as battles over the First Amendment, as though the power of free and fearless reasoning cannot be applied while wearing pasties and a G-string.

Doraville seeks to regulate the sale of alcohol in the Oasis, which it holds as incompatible with a sexually oriented business. And while the Oasis has been declared an SOB, the club’s lawyer and artistic director maintain that it should be allowed to remain open while the Supreme Court of Georgia divines any artistic, non-prurient value in the lip-syncing burlesques and body-painting aerialists.

The case will is expected to be decided in the next six months, so if you want to experience the art and culture of the Oasis, you’d better hurry.

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CoastalCat

Always left wondering who didn’t get their payoff?