Parking, or lack of it, appears to be at the crux of the issue keeping an entertainment business from opening on Dresden Drive.

Time to Escape, an entertainment business where customers try to escape a locked room in under an hour, remains closed after the city in July abruptly withheld a certificate of occupancy for the business and asked a judge for help determining whether it should be considered a “retail business” under the city’s zoning ordinances.

Time to Escape owner Dan Cleveland. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

Time to Escape was set to open in July at 1441 Dresden Drive, also known as Village Park at Brookhaven. Village Park is where the popular Haven Restaurant & Bar and Valenza Italian Restaurant are the anchor businesses.
Brad Hutchins of Weissman Nowack Curry & Wilco is the attorney for Dan Cleveland, owner of Time to Escape. He said the city has put his client in a “weird situation.”

“The bottom line is my client needs to open,” Hutchins said. “He spent $80,000 building out the event space and people are clamoring to use it.”

On July 21, Michel Arnette sent an email to city Development Director Ben Song questioning the zoning for Time to Escape. Song then stopped the process of issuing the certificate of occupancy, according to information obtained through a request under the Open Records Act.

Arnette, owner of Haven and Valenza, said it was his understanding the second floor of 1441 Dresden Drive, where Time to Escape is located, was only to be used for office space. That way, he said, employees and customers for those businesses would only need parking between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and the entire parking lot behind the building would be available for customers of his ground-floor restaurants coming for dinner.

“The big question actually is what kind of business use is Time to Escape,” Arnette said. “I brought that question up to the city and they decided to hold the [certificate of occupancy].”

Parking along the thriving Dresden Drive corridor packed with restaurants and local businesses has long been an issue for the city as people flock to the area. Some people have resorted to parking in nearby neighborhoods, angering residents and leading to “no parking” signs posted throughout the area.

Hutchins said Cleveland has signed a lease to use 17 spaces at an off-site parking lot, but that still has not resolved the issue.

Arnette said he feels Cleveland is a victim in the ongoing confusion, but he added that the retail businesses at 1441 Dresden Drive are also victims because there is not enough parking.

“One thing I can tell you is that we have been at full capacity with retail and office,” Arnette said.

Hutchins said the city has the authority to define unclear zoning regulations and it wasn’t necessary to ask a judge for guidance.