Atlanta Council Rejects 4am Bar Hours
(APN) ATLANTA — In an 11 to 3 vote, the City Council of Atlanta rejected a proposal by Kwanza Hall (District 2) to re-extend the City’s bar closing hours from 3am to 4am.
Those voting nay on the motion to adverse the legislation–or, in support of 4am hours–were Council Members Kwanza Hall (District 2), Cleta Winslow (District 4), and Natalyn Archibong (District 5).
Those voting yea on the motion to adverse the legislation–or, against 4am hours–were Council Members Carla Smith (District 1), Ivory Young (District 3), Alex Wan (District 6), Howard Shook (District 7), Felicia Moore (District 9), CT Martin (District 10), Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large), Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large), and Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large).
Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean (District 8), was absent but voted no in committee.
Councilman Hall told Atlanta Progressive News in a phone interview he’s not promoting drinking, but believes this could be a huge revenue opportunity for the city.
“We have creatives in our city who keep different hours than I do, and they should be able to have some place to go at midnight or at two in the morning. They are creating jobs,” Hall said.
“Atlanta is the New York of the South,” he added.
The Council should focus on taking action against bad bar and club owners, rather than force all bars and clubs to close earlier, Hall said.
Hall said his District, which includes Downtown and part of Midtown, “has more clubs, restaurants, and lounges than any other part of the city.”
Hall insisted he was not done with the issue and said he introduced the legislation with very little lobbying effort to see where the Council Members would line up.
In late 2009, Hall introduced legislation calling for a study on earlier bar and club hours, but Council Members balked at it being the end of a Council term and said it was not the right timing.
Yet, many of the same members who complained about timing, still voted no anyway, even when it was not at the end of a Council term.
Previously, not a single member of the Public Safety/Legal Administration voted to support the proposal in a vote on Tuesday, June 28, 2011.
The debate in Committee was brief.
“I’m not in favor of supporting this. We have enjoyed a downward trend in crime,” Councilwoman Adrean said. “When we had extended bar hours in the Buckhead area there was nothing but trouble. I understand there were at least nine homicides that occurred during bar hours after three in the morning. It’s just a big safety issue to me… We’re building the police department, we’re doing a great job. The Mayor wants to have one of the safest cities in the country. I don’t think we have the bandwidth to keep our city safe with these extended bar hours.”
“I understand that the issue of increased alcohol revenue has been raised in the past and that has not been proven to be the truth, or true. I would just like to get this off the table right away. I’m not interested in pursuing this,” Adrean said, making a motion to adverse.
“To me, this action, the proposed ordinance seems a bit premature, especially in the light of the task force that you’re calling, ATAG, to look at the alcohol code,” Councilman Wan said, speaking to Councilman Bond, who was chairing the committee in absence of Councilman Young.
“I just feel like, why would we look at this even before that group has come back before their recommendations or findings. It seems to be putting the cart before the horse a little bit… I think it’s important we get your work done, Michael, before we do anything of this nature,” Wan said.
However, Wan’s comments are disingenuous, because Councilman Bond’s Alcohol Technical Advisory Group II (ATAG II) proposal does not in any way address bar hours, and he has explicitly stated that the ATAG II will not look at bar hours.
“I’ve been down this road in our communities before with the 4am. I was on a task force years ago where we addressed this. And it was literally a nightmare in our communities. There’s a huge history, a long history of why we turned it back from 4am back down to 2 [actually, the time was changed to 3am],” Councilwoman Shepherd said. “I believe we’re not at a point where we need to go back and revisit that. It only causes problems in the communities.”
Councilman Shook, who opposed the later bar hours, applauded the vote in a statement reprinted on the Buckhead Patch website.
“My thanks to all those who communicated their concern to the Council about the longer hours and the threatened return to the notorious weekly disruption and violence that came to define the Buckhead Village scene of years past,” Shook wrote.
“Former Mayor Sam Massell deserves special recognition for his influential lobbying effort,” Shook wrote.
When the bar hours were first rolled back from 4am to 3am in December 2003, the legislation passed 11 to 4. The four nays at that time were Archibong, Shook, Moore, and then-Councilman Derrick Boazman, who used to represent District 12.
Shook told APN in an October 2009 email that his no vote in 2003 should not be interpreted as voting against earlier bar hours.
“I actually led the effort to shorten bar hours,” Shook wrote. “The original premise was a two-hour reduction. Subsequent politics on the Council floor cut that in half. My finale ‘No’ vote was in protest. To be completely honest, I regard the fact that the hours were shortened as a significant accomplishment,” Shook wrote.
It is not clear, however, why Moore would have voted against earlier bar hours in 2003, but then voted against extending the bar hours back to where they were, when said proposal was on the table in 2011. Moore, whose northwest Atlanta district includes part of Buckhead, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Councilwoman Archibong is the only Councilperson to have taken a consistent vote. She voted against earlier hours in 2003, and then for going back to the later hours in 2011.
As for Councilman Hall and Councilwoman Winslow, who along with Archibong, supported 4am hours in this week’s vote, it was a complete turn-around from their votes in 2003, when they supported the earlier hours at that time.
(END / 2011)