Brookhaven bar owners will have until June of next year to get used to the idea that they must close an hour and a half earlier on weeknights.
The Brookhaven City Council on Sept. 23 voted to decrease the hours bars can serve alcohol Monday through Friday. Under the change, last call must happen seven days a week at 2:55 a.m., with closing time at 3:30 a.m.
Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams, who made a failed motion that last call occur at 2:30 a.m., said the new hours didn’t limit the time enough.
“The problem is that you’re going to continue to have your police monitoring all the crime and the drivers . . . around the clubs and not patrolling the rest of the 12 square miles of Brookhaven,” she said. “I’m just sorry to see that we’re not taking [Police Chief Gary Yandura’s] advice.”
That advice was to roll back last call to 2 a.m.
“What I am worried about right now is our violent crimes escalating,” Yandura said, explaining that Brookhaven is becoming known to partygoers as the “late night spot.” Williams pointed out that Yandura has said a lot of Brookhaven’s DUIs occur between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
“Mothers, don’t let your children be driving out on Brookhaven streets late at night,” Williams said.
Currently, establishments with late-night pouring licenses can serve alcohol until 3:55 a.m. Monday through Friday, with closing time at 4:55 a.m.; and last call at 2:55 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with closing time at 3:55 a.m. Bars will have to comply with the new ordinance by June 1, 2015.
Councilman Bates Mattison made the motion to change the closing time to 2:55 a.m. That motion passed along with the votes of Councilman Joe Gebbia and Mayor J. Max Davis.
“This is a first step,” Mattison said. “Certainly, if we don’t see a solution that works with our public safety, I welcome the chief to bring this back up at a future date.” He said the council was still rolling back the hours “considerably” by forcing bars to close an hour and a half earlier.
Before the vote, Aubrey Villines, an attorney for the Pink Pony on Buford Highway, asked the council to keep in mind that Brookhaven’s late-night establishments compete with businesses all over the metro area.
“Realize that we’re competitive with the city of Atlanta, Chamblee, and the cities surrounding us, not just within Brookhaven,” he said.
Williams had pointed out that the 2:30 a.m. last call she suggested would allow Brookhaven to remain competitive with Atlanta, Roswell, Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, which have last calls at 2 a.m.
Justin Pate of the Rush Lounge said that the council should wait until a District 2 representative was elected in November before making a decision.
“Is this not an important enough issue that we would wait [for] the fourth member?” he asked.
Todd Lantier, chairman of the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce, submitted a statement to be read at the council meeting. He called for a 2:55 a.m. last call time as a compromise between the original time of 3:55 a.m. and Yandura’s 2 a.m. proposal. He also suggested that any changes not go into effect until next year to give businesses time to adjust.
Davis said the new hours are a safety improvement. Under the original ordinance, patrons had to be out the door by 4:55 a.m. Monday through Friday.
“That was a problem that I thought was pretty serious – you had people leaving bars at the same time some people were going to work during the week,” Davis said. “So Bates’ stance is that he wants to do this incrementally, which I think is probably a good idea.”
Davis said that while last call remains the same for Saturday and Sunday, the new closing time is 25 minutes earlier on those days.
New closing time:
3:30 a.m., every night
New last call time:
2:55 a.m., every night
Old closing time:
4:55 a.m., Monday-Friday
3:55 a.m., Saturday-Sunday
Old last call time:
3:55 a.m., Monday-Friday
2:55 a.m., Saturday-Sunday