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Atlanta: Bars/Nightclubs closing earlier

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Council votes to close bars at 3 a.m.

Violence in Buckhead was catalyst

By ERNIE SUGGS

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta City Council voted 11-4 early today to force bars and nightclubs throughout the city to stop selling alcohol at 2:30 a.m. and close their doors at 3 a.m.

Originally, the council had considered having last call at 2 a.m. and closing the bars at 3 a.m. Until now, bars have been able to serve until 3 a.m. and close by 4 a.m.

The council also shot down a plan that would limit the sale of beer and wine at retail stores to between 8 a.m. and 11:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The council will revisit the issue late next year. Councilman Ceasar Mitchell, who had opposed earlier closing times, said he agreed to the new hours only after his amendment to revisit the issue in a year was accepted.

"I made a commitment to work on this thing," Mitchell said, and this will give the city time to come up with "a citywide policy and vision" about how late Atlanta should stay awake.

Mitchell said the violence and chaos associated by some with 4 a.m. bar closing times cannot be subdued by simply changing bar hours.

Bar owner Warren Bruno said the year's wait will give bar owners a chance to prove their case for staying open later.

"We are going to be able to give them real information," said Bruno. "They don't understand the money side. There are millions of dollars that will leave Atlanta. Businesses will close."

The council vote represents a major change for a city noted for its active and diverse nightlife. Natalyn Mosby Archibong, Howard Shook, Felicia Moore and Derrick Boazman voted against the changes.

"This is unfortunate. A true compromise might have been 3 a.m.," said Mike Taylor, the owner of Moondogs. "I've been up and running for 10 years, and I have never had a shooting, a stabbing or any other problem that would cause us to be lumped in with other bars."

Today's vote came toward the end of a marathon council meeting that lasted more than 12 hours and at times featured heated comments from not only council members, but also members of the bar and club communities.

Bruno was one of many people who made desperate pleas to the City Council to allow bars and clubs to remain open until 4 a.m.

There is no specific "last call" now.

Since two men were killed outside of a Buckhead club hours after the January 2000 Super Bowl, the city government, the Buckhead community and businesses have debated closing bars and clubs earlier.

On Nov. 11 of this year, two men were shot and killed outside a Buckhead club, bringing the total to nine slayings in three years, forcing the hands of the City Council, Mayor Shirley Franklin and a police department struggling to get a handle on the problem.

Councilman Boazman called the city's response to the shootings a knee-jerk reaction that does not address crime in Atlanta.

But with the slayings in Buckhead, involving people frequenting bars in the district, many people contended the violence was isolated.

"A lot of this is politics and Buckhead controls the city," said Robert Russ, who works at the Vortex in Little Five Points.

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This is stupid- it won't change a thing! This city needs more police!

Now everyone that wants to keep partying is going to stock up- go home and party and keep everyone up all over the city.

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So Atlanta doesn't have any clubs focused on raving that are open until 6 or 7am?

Actually, it does. But they are "private" bars/clubs. You have to know someone with a membership to get it.

P-Snack - I agree, it won't change anything either.

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