Arcades shut their doors

Police from throughout Shelby County reported no resistance to a Monday deadline by Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens stating all adult arcade machines must be removed.

The deadline followed a Friday ruling by Judge Michael Joiner denying the request of eight Shelby County arcade owners to put a temporary restraining order on the district attorney’s actions.

Owens sent out a letter earlier this month warning all Shelby County business owners who possess adult arcade machines they had until Monday before police would begin confiscating them.

Owens said his actions followed a March 6 ruling by

Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor which declared the machines illegal. The state’s &uot;Chuck E. Cheese&uot; law, Pryor wrote, was unconstitutional.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Department Chief Chris Curry said in an impromptu press conference on Monday that about 30 to 35 locations across Shelby County were identified as arcades or had machines.

He said deputies did a spot check of several locations and reported business owners were in full compliance of the law having removed the machines.

&uot;Our intention was to provide a fair and adequate warning, and it was the right thing to do,&uot; Curry said. &uot;We said all along we didn’t want to seize any machines and we didn’t want to arrest anybody.&uot;

Pelham Attorney Ron Marlow and his law partner John Morrison represented the eight Shelby County arcade owners who unsuccessfully tried to stop the district attorney’s office from shutting down their businesses.

The arcades contesting the ruling were Gran’s Fun Time of Columbiana, Treasure Island, Pyramid Arcade, Johnny’s Place, The Player’s Club, and Lucky Strike Arcade all of Pelham, Z71 Arcade of Montevallo, and Arcade Consultants of Sterrett.

&uot;I’m disappointed: these folks are hardworking people and have invested a lot of money, some even their life savings,&uot;

Marlow said.

He said, though, he was not surprised at the cooperation law enforcement received.

&uot;No one is above the law. (The arcade owners) are going to obey the law and in no way violate (Joiner’s) order,&uot; he said. &uot;I put a lot of faith in our judges. I think Shelby County has some of the most fair and unbiased judges in Alabama.&uot;

In their court filings for the Friday hearing, Marlow and Morrison wrote the machines offer harmless entertainment.

The attorneys attempted to clarify that the machines were not video poker machines.

&uot;The arcades offer gift certificates of no greater value than $5 … They do not reward winners who have higher scores than other winners and they never give out cash prizes.&uot;

Marlow argued the arcades have a &uot;significant positive impact on the local economy,&uot; noting the eight business they represented pay license fees of at least $8,305 per year to local governments and $3,255 in Montevallo alone.

Marlow wrote that the arcades produce $728,000 per year in local sales taxes.

In addition, Marlow said 45 persons in various positions would lose their jobs at a pay of $603,000 combined.

Several arcade owners and arcade employees filed affidavits which stated that many of the employees are primary wage earners for their families and that they would suffer &uot;irreparable harm&uot; from losing employment.

North Shelby resident Edna Bulugaris was in Pelham at the Lucky Strike Arcade last week. She was one of the many Shelby County residents pressing their luck before time ran out on the machines.

She said she usually wins gift certificates to places like Texaco, Western Supermarket and Southeastern Meats.

&uot;It gives me something to do. They don’t pay out cash. The dog tracks pay out cash. That’s gambling,&uot; Bulugaris said. &uot;I think it stinks. It’s politics.&uot;

Chief Curry said police will continue to monitor businesses that possessed the machines should any try to reopen or operate in secret