The locked-room business mired in a zoning and parking dispute for the past several months with the city of Brookhaven and neighboring retail is now open for business.

Time to Escape, a business where customers try to escape a locked room in under an hour, received its certificate of occupancy Thursday, Oct. 13, and was set to open that night. The business is located on the second floor of the building at 1441 Dresden Drive and has two specialty rooms – one with an “Escape from Alcatraz” set inside a realistic cell, and the other with a “King Tut” tomb.

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

“We’re excited to go onto the next phase of our business,” said owner Dan Cleveland.

Lack of parking at the 1441 Dresden Drive business building during evening hours led the city to withhold the certificate of occupancy due to concerns over parking. Cleveland said he and the landlord of the building and Michel Arnette, who owns the restaurants Haven and Valenza on the ground floor of the 1441 Dresden Drive building, met for four weeks to come up with a solution acceptable to everyone.

Cleveland said he agreed to have a valet service for his customers to park their cars at an off-site lot. He also said he is paying $600 a month for the off-site parking.

“I’ll be informing our customers when they call to make reservations for the evening hours that the valet service will be parking their cars in a different lot,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland was set to open Time to Escape in July. Cleveland had filled out all the necessary paperwork and received the permitting needed during the $80,000 renovation of the space early this year. But just days before opening, he was told by the city it could not issue the certificate of occupancy due to a possible zoning issue.

A sign declaring Time to Escape is open was hung in July before the city’s request to a judge about the property’s zoning put the entertainment business in limbo. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

Community Development Director Ben Song denied issuing the certificate of occupancy after he received an email from Arnette alleging Time to Escape was not properly zoned to be on the second floor of the building.

Arnette said he was worried there would not be enough parking spaces for the new business at 1441 Dresden Drive because its parking lot is always at capacity with many of his restaurants’ customers.

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.

In August, the city filed documents in DeKalb Superior Court asking a judge to provide guidance in defining its zoning law, specifically how to define “retail,” and to issue a declaratory judgment on what kind of business Time to Escape is. That case will now be withdrawn.

“[There is] no determination of zoning required by the city. It was more an internal issue to be worked out by landlord and tenants, which has been completed. The case will be withdrawn by the city,” Song said.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.