Brookhaven City Council voted to defer until Aug. 20 a proposal to reduce the hours that bars can stay open after local business owners and bartenders told city officials the move would harm their livelihoods.
Brookhaven city officials have proposed changing the time that bars must close from 3:55 a.m. to 1:55 a.m. in response to complaints from surrounding neighborhoods.
On May 24, the city sent a notice to liquor license holders that there would be a meeting May 28 to discuss possible changes to last call and closing time. According to a city spokeswoman, about 100 people attended the morning meeting. Several more spoke out at the council’s regularly scheduled meeting that night.
Steven Marco, owner of Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub, said though his bar rarely stays open that late, he believes he should have the right to do so because of the permit he holds from DeKalb County.
“At this early juncture of the city, it is patently unfair to change the regulations of the businesses of this community that have been operating for many, many years under the current laws and to not grandfather them or tell them that they have to operate differently now that there is a new council,” Marco said.
But other bar owners said they need their late-night business.
“You think cutting two hours out of somebody’s business really isn’t a big deal. But it’s really like cutting half our business,” said Justin Pate of Rush Lounge.
Aundre McDonald of Cream Ultra Lounge said many of his customers don’t come in until midnight.
“That gives us a very small window of opportunity to provide for them the reason they came out,” McDonald said.
Pate said he believes many of the noise issues or other nuisances can be fixed through better enforcement, not changing the laws.
“A lot of these problems can be solved with your police force,” Pate said. “If a business is acting irresponsibly, by all means go after them. But use your police force to do it. Do not do a broad sweeping amendment that is going to hurt so many people.”
Mayor J. Max Davis said he would like for Brookhaven’s police to provide the council with more information about any issues surrounding bars and nightclubs.
“We’d like to hear from our police department after they’ve had a chance to get up and running and get their opinion on it,” Davis said.
Police Chief Gary Yandura said he would try to collect crime data and information from surrounding jurisdictions before the August vote.
“There were a number of establishments that aren’t complying with the current code, so that needs to be cleaned up first,” Yandura said.
Council members agreed that they needed more input from the community before making any changes to the alcohol ordinance.
“We as elected officials want to hear from all sides on this issue,” said Councilman Bates Mattison.
The city plans to hold a public hearing and collect emailed comments from residents.