John Cornetta Wins Suit in Battle Over Love Shack Sign

Mar 30, 2009 6:00 PM PST
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The ongoing saga of the Love Shack is nearing its close after owner John Cornetta’s victory in court March 24. The superior court of Fulton County has sided with Cornetta and determined that the city illegally blocked him from putting up signage that resulted in the store’s closure.

Cornetta is now free to sue the city for damages and lost revenue, which starts at $1.7 million plus attorney’s fees.

“Here, when [John’s Creek] denied [Love Shack’s] applications, it reasoned that it was ‘not appropriate’ to issue the permits because [Love Shack] was denied a business license,” Judge Ural D. Glanville wrote in his summary judgment. “However, because the ordinance does not require that an applicant possess a business license to obtain a sign or banner permit, this was not a permissible basis upon which to deny the applications.”

Cornetta’s near three-year ordeal with John’s Creek began when the city denied his store’s business license after claiming it was an adult store situated in an area that’s not zoned for adult businesses. After shuffling its inventory, the store was subsequently denied a business license and a permit to erect a sign.

"For two years we sat there without a sign," Cornetta told XBIZ. "We had a little 'Open' sign in the window. We had a little banner up and we got 43 misdemeanor charges. Every day they stopped and gave us another misdemeanor charge.”

Without a proper sign that could be viewed by the public, the Love Shack was forced to close last October and Cornetta claims he lost $1.7 million in profits from the closure, which he had verified by forensic accountants. The judge sided with Cornetta and agreed that the city and Mayor Mike Bodker had illegally caused the business to fail, which leaves them on the hook for damages.

In the letter to Bodker, Cornetta’s attorney Cary S. Wiggins wrote, “I am using October 16, 2007 as the beginning injury date. (I say ‘beginning’ because the injury is, or injuries are, continuing.) This is the date when the city’s decision to deny Love Shack’s applications became ‘final.’ The extent of the injury is pervasive and centers on lost profits. If, as Love Shack contends, the city’s motive in denying the permit applications was to make it difficult for patrons to find the store, a considerable amount of lost profits is foreseeable damage.”

“Unfortunately we wound up having to close; I spent a fortune,” Cornetta said. “Finally I got justice. They almost put me under, but justice has now been served.”

The next and final step is for the court to determine the monetary extent of the damages awarded to Cornetta. That hearing takes place late next month.

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