Three people were wounded by gunfire Jan. 3 on a sidewalk outside a Buckhead Village restaurant in an area that has been a hot spot for community concerns about gun violence.

The shooting happened around 2 a.m. at Blue Restaurant & Lounge at 262 Pharr Road at the North Fulton Drive intersection, according to the Atlanta Police Department. Officers heard the gunshots, according to an APD report, and found a woman with a gunshot wound in the leg. Officers then learned that two other victims, men who suffered wounds to the abdomen, were already at a hospital. The woman was reported to be “alert, conscious and breathing,” and the men were in stable condition.

APD says its preliminary investigation found that a white vehicle with two occupants stopped near the scene and a male exited the passenger side and “fired towards several people on the sidewalk.” The shooter got back in the vehicle, which left the scene.

Rising gun violence has been a concern for Buckhead community leaders for roughly 18 months and was among the factors in the creation of a “Buckhead Security Plan” for beefing up police measures through public and private funding. The concerns peaked last month with incidents in the major shopping mall district, as Lenox Square responded to a string of shootings by installing metal detectors and deploying gun-sniffing dogs, and 7-year-old Kennedy Maxie was killed by apparently random gunfire as she rode in a car past Phipps Plaza. Maxie’s killing led the “Buckhead Security Plan” and its concerns to gain national media attention.

But neighborhood fears about gun violence have been at least as strong in Buckhead Village and Garden Hills. The section of Pharr between North Fulton Drive and Grandview Avenue has been the scene of several brazen, and sometimes bizarre, shooting incidents in the past eight months. Concerns from those neighborhoods have often been discussed in the monthly meetings of Neighborhood Planning Unit B, whose board chair was among those involved in creating the “Buckhead Security Plan,” and where Fulton County and Atlanta prosecutors discussed such possible tactics as a “gun court” and a gun buy-back program.

Among the major shooting incidents on that section of Pharr: In May 2020, three shots-fired reports on the same day in an apartment building, including a masked gunman firing on a security officer and 11 bullets fired into a unit’s door; another May shooting that left 16 rifle shells on the street and may have been connected to a man who claimed to have been wounded on a shooting on Ga. 400; and an August 2020 incident where a man said would-be carjackers shot at him at a gas station.

Related to the shooting concerns, NPU B and Garden Hills Civic Association members also raised allegations that nightclubs are masquerading as restaurants contributing to late-night crime. Echoed by other groups citywide, such concerns led the City Council last month to pass an ordinance requiring annual alcohol-license compliance audits on a sample of restaurants.

Blue was one of the local restaurants that NPU B and civic association members raised concerns about in public meetings. However, a previous Reporter review of APD reports for May 1 through Aug. 18 showed no serious crimes reported there. The only incident within Blue was a violation of social distancing rules under the pandemic safety guidelines; there were also four vehicle break-ins or damage in a shared parking garage.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.