A 20-year battle between the City of Atlanta and Tokyo Valentino took a dramatic turn on Thursday when fire marshals temporarily closed the video booths at the self-described “adult superstore” on Cheshire Bridge Road.
The move comes just 10 days after the city lost a round in its ongoing legal fight with the store.
Fire marshals with the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department came to Tokyo Valentino on Thursday for a routine inspection, according to the store’s founder and CEO Michael Morrison.
“They said we have to immediately cease and desist and they chased out all the customers,” he told Project Q Atlanta. “The retail store they said could stay open. The video booths have to be closed immediately.”
Project Q obtained a copy of the cease and desist order issued to Tokyo Valentino.
“Adult entertainment operations must cease and desist,” the order said. “At this time, your current [certificate of occupancy] type is mercantile, thus meaning you can continue your retail sales. Contact Buildings Department immediately.”
Morrison contacted his attorneys, who contacted former Atlanta City Councilmember Kwanza Hall. Hall connected Morrison with an Atlanta Fire Rescue Department official.
“[The fire department captain] said, ‘I want you to tear up the citation immediately. That’s not what was supposed to happen,’” Morrison said.
“We’re back open because the attorneys got involved. We only got to that level because of Kwanzaa Hall. He’s been very supportive of the gay community,” he added.
Morrison said the fire department instructed him to go to the Office of Buildings “and do something with my building permit or business license.”
“How am I supposed to go down and get something that says adult entertainment when this is an issue we’ve been trying to decide in the courts for years now?” he said.
Morrison is waiting on a return call from the Atlanta Fire official to clear up what he should do next.
Hall did not return a Project Q call requesting comment. Spokespeople for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and for Atlanta Fire said they are looking into the matter.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on June 10 that reversed a lower court decision against Tokyo Valentino and restarted a constitutional challenge to the City of Atlanta’s adult entertainment ordinance. The court also lifted an injunction that prohibited the store from operating an adult mini-motion picture theater, adult bookstore or adult entertainment business.
The city dropped outside counsel Scott Bergthold from the case two days after the 11th Circuit ruling. Bergthold’s long anti-LGBTQ history was documented by Project Q in April. The city paid Bergthold at least $267,000 between November 2016 and December 2018, according to a review of invoices by Project Q.
UPDATE | A Bottoms spokesperson provided Project Q with a letter that Atlanta Fire Section Chief D.L. Cummings sent to Chris Coleman on Thursday afternoon. Coleman handles marketing and public relations for Tokyo Valentino.
“Please accept this correspondence as official notice that the above referenced June 20, 2019 order to cease operations is rescinded and is without legal force or effect,” Cummings wrote.