Two Atlanta strip clubs are waiting to hear whether they will effectively be put out of business for alcohol violations, and a prominent nightlife attorney is worried that the city has launched an effort to put selected bars out of business.
Late last month, the city's License Review Board voted in favor of a six-month alcohol-license suspension for 24K Club, a 25-year-old adult entertainment club on Cheshire Bridge Road near LaVista Road. And last week, the LRB dealt a harsh blow to the nearby Platinum 21 on Piedmont Road, voting for a license revocation.
In both cases, the clubs were accused of serving drinks to an underage police informant in a sting operation.
Attorney Alan Begner is concerned that the harsh recommendations signal a turning point in the LRB's attitude toward bars and nightclubs -- perhaps even an unofficial no-tolerance policy. Later this month, two Buckhead night spots, Club Uranus, a notorious party bar, and Frequency, a high-energy dance club, also have hearings scheduled before the LRB for the same violation.
"Based on recent experience, I fear a heavy discipline," says Begner, who represents Club Uranus. "This is the most extreme punishment I've ever seen."
In previous months, the LRB recommended $2,000 fines for similar violations by the Living Room, another popular Buckhead bar, and the Real Chow Baby, a restaurant on Howell Mill Road. Cabbagetown's 97 Estoria was also slapped with a $2,000 fine in May for serving alcohol after hours.
Begner says he believes the city's strategy is to use license revocations as a tool for putting selected clubs out of business to free up desirable property. Exhibit A, he says, is Backstreet, the shuttered gay nightclub, which lost its alcohol license and is being replaced by condos now under construction. Club Uranus is located along a stretch of Peachtree Road that also has been targeted for condo towers, he notes.
"I've heard that some of the power brokers in Buckhead want to get rid of Club Uranus at all costs," Begner says. "I'm concerned that there's a general move afoot to try to do away with nightclubs so developers can build high-rises."
Barney Simms, the LRB chairman, says he's not aware of any push for a new crackdown.
"The board tries to be consistent and send a strong message to license-holders that they have a responsibility to protect the public," he says. "I can assure you that if we gave a six-month suspension, it was not the first such [violation] within a reasonable period of time."
But attorney Cary Wiggins, who represents both 24K and Platinum 21, says 24K did not have the kind of history that would warrant such treatment, although the club was also cited for remaining open a few minutes past closing time.
"A six-month suspension is way out of the norm," he says. "It's a death sentence for a nightclub."
Wiggins says that if Mayor Shirley Franklin upholds the LRB's recommendations, he expects to mount a legal challenge.
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