By Dyana Bagby
Brookhaven City Council on Dec. 1 discussed shutting down local bars and clubs an hour earlier after city officials presented information about frequent police responses to the Northeast Plaza off Buford Highway.
The council was divided on the idea of an earlier last call, and a representative of one Northeast Plaza club said it would hurt business.
“We don’t have to go to bed at midnight, but I do think 2:30 a.m. is an acceptable time,” Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams said, adding she was concerned for overall public safety.
But Councilman Bates Mattison asked whether the police department would face the same kinds of incidents even in bars closed earlier. “I don’t think rolling back hours is going to change anything,” he said.
Currently, last call for local late-night venues is 2:55 a.m. with closing set at 3:30 a.m. Restaurants are also able to stay open until 3:30 a.m. Closing bars and nightclubs early has been part of an ongoing discussion in Brookhaven since at least 2014, with resistance from local businesses.
Breaking up fights, arresting people for DUIs and disorderly conduct are some of the recent incidents the Brookhaven Police Department has responded to in the Northeast Plaza where several nightclubs are located, including XS Lounge and Atlanta Peachtree Ballroom.
Community Development Director Ben Song’s presentation to the council was part of an operations report presentation on XS Restaurant and Lounge to show it is in compliance with its 2014 Special Land Use Permit as a late-night establishment. The SLUP includes mandating the owner of the establishment to appear before the council to update on any citizen complaints and steps taken to lessen loud noise.
Song said XS is in compliance with its permit, but that the city is concerned with the amount of police response needed there and at other nearby businesses. The police incidents are not specific to XS Lounge, he added.
“There are a lot of [police] resources being expended there,” he said. “And it’s not just a single officer there providing security, but they are asking for backup. This is additional time taking officers away from being on the streets.” Song added that three more similar establishments are being planned for Northeast Plaza.
A representative from XS Lounge, who asked his name not be used, attended the meeting but did not speak to the council. In a later interview, he said being forced to close earlier would cost his business a great deal of money.
“It would hurt us so bad,” he said.
XS Lounge, which operates as a restaurant until 12:30 a.m. and then becomes a late-night venue afterwards, pays some $20,000 each month in sales tax and a monthly alcohol tax of $2,500, the representative said.
Song said most of the police-call incidents are taking place about 3:30 to 4 a.m., Song said. He recommended discussing rolling back hours.
“The fact is that certain hours attract certain types of businesses and what we want is to separate ourselves from the different cities,” Song said. “What we are seeing now is a concentration of similar uses in one location.”
Williams and Councilwoman Linley Jones support closing late-night venues at 2:30 a.m. “I’m concerned for the safety of our police officers,” Jones said.
But Councilmen Mattison, John Park and Joe Gebbia are not sure doing so would solve any problems.