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Starship opens at Thomas Crossroads

It has been the story of a business opening that polarized a community like few others. But after nearly two years since applying for a business license to operate Starship Adult Novelties and Gifts on Ga. Highway 34 at Thomas Crossroads the company’s Coweta County store opened Monday, with more than 550 sales on its first day.

Starship owner Kelly Rogers said he decided to open the store to recoup some of the past losses that stemmed from not being open while he awaited for the federal lawsuits to run their course.

The store’s first day of business racked up 556 sales, Rogers said.

“We’re not open fully,” Rogers said, adding that the parking lot was full all day. There were also a dozen cars in the parking lot at 8:30 p.m. “(Monday) was the best store opening we ever had and it was the number two selling store of the 22 in the company.”

The store is outfitted with a variety of offerings such as knives, swords, games, cigars, incense, t-shirts, lingerie, candles, oils, shoes, cards, PG-13 first-run movies, tobacco pipes, jewelry safes and furniture.

A separate area of the store contains the novelties that pertain to adults. A sign above the doorway to the section states that the items inside are sold as novelties and that some items may be designed for bona fide medical, educational or scientific purposes. We are prohibited by Coweta County ordinance from selling these items for non-medical, non-educational and non-scientific uses, the sign says.

Starship got a favorable ruling on April 19 when Coweta County Superior Court Judge Jack Kirby ruled in favor of Starship Enterprises in its lawsuit against Coweta County after county commissioners in January 2009 denied Starship a business license.

In his ruling, Judge Kirby reversed the county’s decision to withhold Starship’s business license and ordered the issuance of a business tax certification to the company contingent on three stipulations. Those include Starship’s compliance with county ordinances pertaining to commercial businesses, that the company conduct and provide monthly audits of its retail inventory and sales for the first year of operation followed by quarterly reports thereafter and that the Coweta County Business Tax Dept. have authority to make unannounced visits at its discretion.

Starship subsequently filed a federal lawsuit claiming Coweta County’s actions to prevent the store’s opening is unconstitutional. Atlanta attorney Brian Spears in the filing is asking for compensatory damages against Coweta County and Business License Director Eva Wagner and punitive damages against Wagner. The filing also requests a jury trial where applicable.

The federal lawsuit was to be heard by U.S. District Court Judge Jack Camp. But Camp’s assignment to the case was pre-empted after he was charged last month with a variety of criminal acts, including the possession and use of illegal drugs purchased from a stripper at Atlanta’s Goldrush Showbar and carrying weapons during a drug transaction.

The Starship affair surfaced in public in early 2009 at a county commission meeting where more than 300 residents were adamant that the store not be given a business license. A number of those residents told commissioners they would prefer to take their chances in court rather than have the board approve the business license.

Starship, under a different venue, later received a 4-1 recommendation from Coweta County’s Tax Rate Review and Appeals Committee to have its earlier business license denial overturned.

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