‘I have a store I’m trying to save’
GAGA’s recent notice can be traced back to two events: a benefit and a petition.
GAGA oversaw the “Queens United” benefit at Park Tavern in February. The event followed in the wake of the Burkhart’s racism controversy, and was organized by GAGA official Dino Thompson-Sarmiento. Despite hosting approximately 100 guests, the event is now regarded by many attendees as a poorly-planned mishap. Calvin Hemphill, who DJ’d the party, described the occasion as “disorganized, with poor turnout.” Although Hemphill said he got reimbursed, “the queens did not get paid.” “I was disappointed to see that fall through,” he added.
Approximately four weeks ago, GAGA posted a petition on Change.org. On the petition page, GAGA called for the protection and preservation of Tokyo Valentino.
Tokyo Valentino is an adult retail store located on Cheshire Bridge Road. The store’s owner, Michael Morrison, is currently involved in a zoning dispute with the City of Atlanta. Under the 1977 Atlanta code (amended 1987), no adult businesses may operate within 500 feet of a residential area. On Jan. 3, Thomas Thrash, the chief U.S. judge for the Northern District of Georgia, issued an injunction in the zoning case. He found Tokyo Valentino to be in violation of the city’s adult entertainment ordinance. The case has yet to be resolved in full.
In the text of its petition, GAGA called the store a “landmark establishment.”
April 27, 2018
“Tokyo Valentino at Cheshire Bridge Road is being shut down by the City of Atlanta unless you help! This location is important to our LGBTQ identities as gay Georgians (GAGA). … GAGA cannot afford to lose another landmark establishment.” The petition compared Tokyo Valentino to other LGBTQ institutions, such as Burkhart’s and The Eagle, adding “If we lose our culture then we also lose our identity as gay Georgians!”
As of this writing, nearly 7,500 people have signed the online document.
The Change.org petition states that “Gay Georgia, Inc. (GAGA) is a state-registered political action committee (non-candidate committee) in the State of Georgia.” Georgia Voice was unable to find a PAC registered to “Gay Georgia, Inc.” on the Georgia list or on the federal list of registered PACs and lobbyists. However, Gay Georgia, Inc, is documented by the Georgia Secretary of State as a domestic nonprofit corporation,
“The idea that Tokyo Valentino, a place I’ve never heard of and didn’t exist when I lived there, is a landmark among those is laughable to me.”