Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Council commitee: 4 a.m. bar hours study can wait

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2009 at 11:37 PM

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Without any debate, an Atlanta City Council committee today voted to to tap the brakes on Councilman Kwanza Hall's proposal to study whether extending bar hours would ease the city's financial woes and help boost its nightlife.

Two weeks ago, Hall introduced an out-of-the-blue resolution that asked the mayor (and next mayor) to study whether a 4 a.m. last call could add much-needed revenue to Atlanta's bottom line. The recently re-elected councilman, whose district includes gentrifying neighborhoods that are home to both bars and families, said the city needed to look at other forms of revenue than just property taxes. He wanted to know if the extra cash generated by drink taxes and licensing fees could be used to help pay for public safety or other city services. And in the process, make Atlanta's nightlife and bar scene just a tad more exciting.

Hall's colleagues were surprised by the proposal. In 2003, Council made the controversial decision to roll back bar hours from 4 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. after Buckhead residents complained of late-night noise, traffic congestion and crime. Those who remembered that brouhaha were in no mood to relive it.

Buckhead, Castleberry Hill and Poncey-Highland residents — many of whom were quick to recall noisy nights and rowdy partyhoppers — weren't enthusiastic about the idea.

But bar owners and late-night carousers, however, applauded Hall's proposal. They said the 2:30 a.m. last call has hurt their sales and besmirched the city with a reputation as a sleepy town. At a Nov. 23 public hearing, bar owners said they regularly watch customers leave early to drive to DeKalb County, where bars close at 4 a.m.

Hall, who won re-election on Nov. 3 without opposition, wanted the city's new mayor to present his or her findings to Council by Jan. 30, 2010. Some councilmembers, however, said his idea was poorly timed. They said the issue was political dynamite and too complex to drop on Mayor Shirley Franklin in her last month in office — and then be picked up by a new mayor and councilmembers at the beginning of their terms.

"I think [Hall's] intent makes sense, to do a study, to look at it," Councilman Jim Maddox said during today's Finance and Executive Committee. "But to move on it right now with the Council changing, perhaps wouldn't be a good time. He could re-introduce it. He will be here to do that."

Hall was not available for comment. In an interview with CL last week, he noted that both mayoral candidates Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed expressed interest in boosting nightlife. So don't be surprised if he — or someone else in City Hall — resurrects the proposal next year. Late-night liquor license, anyone?

(Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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