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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An op-ed column inspired by Dynamic Dish's closing

Last week in our editorial board meeting (yes, I'm also on CL's editorial board - hurrah for a tiny staff! We all have 10 jobs!), Dynamic Dish's closing came up. There's only been a handful of restaurants that have closed in recent years that have inspired the kind of sadness that DD's closing has. I knew a bit about the situation, about owner David Sweeny's long and eventually unsuccessful attempt to secure a liquor license for the restaurant, and the more I thought about it the more upset I became. I decided to write an op-ed column about the city's lack of support for small businesses and particularly small restaurants. It appears on this week's op-ed page.
It was a frustrating column to write, in part because there are so many factors at work. It's impossible to point to any one thing that makes running a restaurant hard and practically impossible in a bad economy. I spoke to Shaun Doty about the closing of Shaun's, and he had no harsh words for the city - in fact he seemed sympathetic to the demands the city places on small businesses. "The city does place a huge financial burden on small businesses and especially restaurants with all the permitting fees," he said. "But the city's broke! Just like the rest of us!" Doty described city officials as being incredibly helpful, but only when you track them down in person. "I go to City Hall with my kids," he says. "Once you get to know these guys, they really want to help you out."
Like much about life in Atlanta (anyone been to traffic court lately?), the permitting system has become so complex and convoluted, with so many different departments involved, that it discourages business and costs everyone - businesses, the city, taxpayers - far more than is necessary. An overhaul would also be expensive, and require the kind of cooperation rarely seen in local government. But the end result would mean more business, more jobs, more tax revenue, and more places to eat.

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