Monday, June 9, 2008

Shows could be over for troubled Teahouse

Posted By on Mon, Jun 9, 2008 at 6:30 PM

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Over the past three years, Inman Park’s 11:11 Teahouse has morphed from a laid-back sanctuary for tea drinkers, knitters and the herbal set into a venue for showcasing grassroots indie rock acts.

That transformation may have come to an end earlier this month when owner Penney Balmes was charged with selling alcohol without a license, a misdemeanor that could result in jail time. In mid May, she was handcuffed by police and perp-walked out of her teahouse/home during one such concert.

City prosecutor Raines Carter says Balmes also faces charges of doing business without a license and breaking the noise ordinance, lesser violations that each carry the threat of $1,000 fine. Balmes, who so far is pleading not guilty, told CL she’d be willing to discuss her situation after her June 12 hearing in Atlanta Municipal Court.

Although the teahouse is popular with some of its neighbors, not everyone’s a fan. The police received numerous noise complaints from one nearby household, although Lisa Burnett, newly elected president of the Inman Park Neighborhood Association, says her group as a whole has nothing against Balmes’ operations.

“We’re just trying to make sure everyone gets along and follows the laws,” Burnett says.

According to a posting by Balmes on a neighborhood Web forum, she doesn’t need a business license because 11:11 Teahouse isn’t a business; it’s simply a gathering spot for local artists and musicians.

The city sees things differently. Raines says a place that regularly offers a service, product or entertainment – even if it only seeks “donations” – can be considered a business. But he says his office could modify or shelve charges if an agreement is worked out with neighbors.

Although the Teahouse has been quiet since Balmes’ latest citation, some friends and supporters are planning a benefit concert at Eyedrum to help pay her legal bills. Scheduled for June 19, the event will feature Adron, Hubcap, Molotov Pipedream and other local bands.

(Photo by Dustin Chambers)

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