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24-hour clubbing is over in Atlanta

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Turn out the lights: 24-hour clubbing is over

By RODNEY HO

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A glitzy, rambunctious slice of Atlanta's social scene -- "private clubs" that served liquor long after other bars had closed -- has come to the end of a decades-long run.

Three of the clubs, Backstreet Atlanta, Club 112 and the Riviera, remain open for business but have lost their legal standing to serve into the wee hours of the morning.

They also are complying with the city's new 3 a.m. closing time, which was a separate City Council decision spurred by late-night violence in Buckhead and unrelated to the late-hour clubs.

Saturday night, Backstreet bartenders uttered the foreign phrase "last call" at 2:30 a.m., and deejays cut the dance music off at 2:45 a.m. Guards ushered confused, inebriated people out the door as the clock approached 3 a.m..

"We don't need government telling us when we can or cannot drink," said Michael Moody, 41, a regular Backstreet partygoer, as he nursed his final white Russian. "We need to keep Atlanta Atlanta. This is a big loss."

Randal Lautzenheiser, chairman of the Neighborhood Planning Unit covering Riviera and Backstreet, said the end of 24-hour partying was overdue. He's been fielding complaints of traffic and noise from residents of new condos and high-rises nearby.

"When those two clubs opened in the '70s, Midtown was pretty blighted, but now there's a lot more residential," Lautzenheiser said. "I am not opposed to 24-hour clubs, but perhaps they should be in a warehouse district where they're not bothering people."

Tom Houck, a former Creative Loafing nightlife columnist who has been following the scene since 1977, said that over the past five years, he has noticed the City Council taking greater notice of complaints by neighbors around Backstreet and Club 112 about drugs and partying.

"There seems to be a shift in the whole moral kind of indignation towards drinking and smoking," said Houck, who supports no limits to drinking hours. Indeed, the police a year ago also began enforcing long-ignored state Sunday blue laws, which prohibited bars from serving alcohol if food wasn't their primary revenue vehicle.

'Always open' no more

For decades, Backstreet -- with its legendary trash-talking drag queens and its pulsating dance floor -- has drawn tourists from far and wide, as much a magnet in gay circles as Stone Mountain is for Civil War buffs. Open since 1975 at the corner of Sixth and Peachtree streets, it was the one Atlanta club known to be "always open and pouring," as its marquee says.

Patrons say they've stayed there as late as noon, often to sober up.

Early Sunday morning, Antonio Nichols, 26, of Midtown looked a bit lost outside a closed Backstreet. "I used to get out of work at Blake's [another bar] at 4 a.m. and come here to party and drink," he said. "I'd leave and the sun would blind me."

At Club 112, an after-hours hip-hop hotspot cited in Jermaine Dupri's 2001 rap hit "Welcome to Atlanta," scores of dancing patrons protested the changes by signing petitions perched on a shelf at the club's cloakroom.

Many of those streaming into Club 112 on Cheshire Bridge Road after 1 a.m. did so thinking they had five or six hours to drink and dance.

"Most people in Atlanta don't come out until 11 or 12," said Charles Spann, 32, who came to the club planning to stay until 5 a.m. or so.

Legal appeal lost

The clubs, around since the mid-1970s, were technically "private," which meant they could pour drinks 24/7 to anyone of legal age who walked up to the door and bought a membership. At the time, the city limited hours for new clubs but granted "grandfather" status to existing ones, according to Jackson Cook, an attorney who represents all of the former private clubs.

Then, when Bill Campbell was mayor in 2001, the City Council effectively withdrew the grandfather clause, requiring clubs to attain nonprofit tax status.

The clubs could not comply and appealed the ordinance as unconstitutional. The city let them operate as they had, but on Nov. 26, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the clubs' appeal.

Mayor Shirley Franklin supports the 2001 action. "I didn't make that judgment," she said. "We just had to be consistent and follow the law."

Soon after the appeals court decision, police did cite three of the clubs for operating without proper liquor licenses but allowed them to keep pouring, said Atlanta City Attorney Linda DiSantis. Those cases will be heard later this month, she said.

Cary Wiggins, another club lawyer, acknowledged Sunday that the clubs were operating without official city liquor licenses.

A fourth club, Crystal Palace in southwest Atlanta, closed its doors because of the new rules.

'We can't be young'

While few partygoers at the clubs Sunday morning were familiar with the court scuffle, they universally bemoaned the end of the after-hours party. For many, the options were far less glamorous: home, or the Waffle House. (One gay option was the non-alcoholic club Blu in Midtown.)

"This is ridiculous!" said Grant Lindsey, 23, of Decatur as a Backstreet bartender upstairs pulled down the gate in front of his bar at 2:30 a.m. "This is an opportunity to be young and free and enjoy each other in a safe place. We can't be young anymore!"

Naturally, clubbers will adjust and simply start partying earlier. But the disappearance of late-night clubbing will hurt the city, bar owners and promoters contend.

"The city's going to lose a lot of tax revenue," said Abe Wossen, a former general manager at Midtown nightclub Vision who is renovating Club Esso downtown. "And I know a lot of people out of town who came for weekends to party. I don't think that's going to happen as much anymore."

Take Ray Humphrey, 30, who regularly drives two-plus hours from Birmingham to visit Club 112.

"Club 112 is my weekend," he said. "There is nothing like this in Birmingham."

Because Humphrey often works until 9 p.m. Saturday, he doesn't get to the the club until 1 a.m. With the club closing at 3 a.m., he said it's no longer worth the trip.

"If I can't come here anymore," Humphrey said, "I won't stay at Swiss

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Wow, a 3am closing time. In Charlotte they have to stop serving alcohol at 2am (NC Law), however the city allows dance clubs to stay open till 4am with a special permit. The clubs have to apply for the permit, and it will get revoked if too much illegal activity happens at the club (Drugs, and Underage Drinking are the focus)

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When I do go out, I usually head home not too long after 2am... the people that stay till 4am are the dance freaks and those rolling.

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I'm pretty disappointed. Not that I go to the clubs very often anymore, but when I did I would regularly stay out until 4, 5, 6 in the morning. Usually Buckhead til 330 or 4, then on to a 24 hour club.

It's pretty disappointing, since I think it takes a good bit of Atlanta's character away with it. I think there could have been much better ways to prevent crime/illegal activity than to simply force everyone to close early.

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The same thing happened in Tuscaloosa in 2003.

The bars used to open all night, but the city shut off the tap at 2AM (except Friday nights, when they can go all night, and Sunday, where alcohol is still not legal here after 2AM). The result has been lost revenue for the city due to the closure of a couple of long-time bars that catered to the late-night crowd.

There's been no appreciable difference in crime, as far as anyone can tell.

I don't even go to late-night bars (or even drink), but fail to see the wisdom in such restrictions.

In a nutshell, Alabama's a very conservative state, and some university officials here wanted to shut down the "party town" image to make this place "more wholesome and inviting" to the wealthy suburbanites elsewhere in the state who have been sending their children to more white-bread schools.

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The same thing happened in Tuscaloosa in 2003.

The bars used to open all night, but the city shut off the tap at 2AM (except Friday nights, when they can go all night, and Sunday, where alcohol is still not legal here after 2AM). The result has been lost revenue for the city due to the closure of a couple of long-time bars that catered to the late-night crowd.

There's been no appreciable difference in crime, as far as anyone can tell.

I don't even go to late-night bars (or even drink), but fail to see the wisdom in such restrictions.

In a nutshell, Alabama's a very conservative state, and some university officials here wanted to shut down the "party town" image to make this place "more wholesome and inviting" to the wealthy suburbanites elsewhere in the state who have been sending their children to more white-bread schools.

They're only shooting themselves in the foot.

Are Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile the only cities that have 24-hour clubbing 7 days a week?

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Hey now you guys still have it good...LOL- IN PA (INCLUDING PHILLY)the bars always closed at 2 AM, last call at 1:45, and by 1:59 there is the usual UGLY scene of bouncers and bartenders SCREAMING GET THE F*CK OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! while people try to find their rides...unless your in the "in" crowd then you get an extra 10 mins and a more diplomatic, apologetic reminder to leave.

I think this may be a national trend- smoking bans, tougher liquor laws- Even in moderate PA the LCB gets more and more fascist by the second as well as sanitation laws to food starting to get ridiculous.

It's like the gov is really getting on an anti- private industry kick lately.

and BTW as for the party starting earlier BULL CRAP the dance floors in PA don't fill up any earlier than anywhere else. :angry:

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God im gonna miss NY when I have to leave this place...i got home at 630 saturday morning... :blink:

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well ATL won't be in anymore rap video's

Not so sure about that. Most of the times Atlanta appears in rap videos its generally because the artists are from here, not because of the long clubbing hours.

It's also worth pointing out that many clubs in Dekalb and some other areas of Fulton county are already touting that they are open until 4am or later. These rules only apply to clubs within the city, and there are several popular clubs outside of the city limits that are probably going to do very well thanks to this new law. Although I think it's still a blow for bringing people into the city, I assure you the party won't stop... it'll just stop for those clubs in the city.

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Well, there are still alternatives if your gay. Blu is open until whnever they feel like closing (usually 7-9am) and it is Atlantas best dance club by far. There is an alochol bar attached to the side called Wet. It closes at 3am but Blu continues on into the morning. Then I think I heard Backstreet was reopening at 7-9am, so Atlantans can still have A+ nightlife 24 hours, or at least gay people can.

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Yes, several clubs in Atlanta, even more so those with "sister" clubs have liquor sales until 3am, while the the other club is liquor free and stay open all night. Not quiet the same as before, but certainly keeps the party going all night.

I have not yet seen a straight club use this "work around" yet, but imagine it's coming.

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Hey you Atlanta gay bois. If you wanna dance to house and get drunk, come up to Nashville. Excess and Orbitz don't close until 8-9am and open at 2am. ;)

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Actually, you may want to beware if you aren't into it, Excess (house/techo) and Katatonic (trance) are the two main clubs for the electronic scene, but they are also ecstacy central in Nashville.

For the lesbian techno fans - there is Club Voodoo in West End. I've not been to either of these clubs in over two years, however.

You only have to be 18 to enter Excess, but 21 to drink of course.

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Yep.

Usually I use city guides like CitySearch to find more info.

http://www.citysearch.com/

Out of the clubs in Nashville that I know of, two of them open at 2am.

http://nashville.citysearch.com/profile/11...ch_name_noncust

Katatonic - Trance; opens 3am on Sat Morning/Fri Night; Opens 2am on Sat. Night; Sunday morning; closes by 8 or 9a.m.

http://nashville.citysearch.com/profile/11...ch_name_noncust

Excess/Orbit - DJ, House flava more or less; opens at 2am both Fri and Sat nights (really Sat/Sun mornings). LOL

Looks as if they are alcohol free, with a bring your own policy. I guess I forgot seeing that I've not been to these places since the summer of 2001 when I went regularly...

And if that isn't enough, you can just go here:

http://www.scenetennessee.com/

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Looks as if they are having a party tonight, Jan 16th actually; looks like a typo on the year 2003 though. hehe

encounter3halfpagewebflyer.gif

18 to sprite, 21 to swallow - interesting slogan

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Backstreet Atlanta is again 24 hours. How? It stopped serving alcohol now. they hope to feed off the crowd at The Armory after it closes at 3am. Not sure how this will go over but I didnt think Backstreet would be non-24 hours for long, too many damn crackheads in Atlanta thats for sure.

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I wish Tallahassee had 24-hour clubbing. Chubby's closes at 1am and Moon closes at 2am.

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24 Hour Clubbing existed in this city? Why couldn't City Council have waited until after I was at legal entry age to do impose morality. Someone should alert Franklin that a thriving nightlife scene helps a city keep international status. Miami would've never done something like this... *smh*

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24 Hour Clubbing existed in this city? Why couldn't City Council have waited until after I was at legal entry age to do impose morality. Someone should alert Franklin that a thriving nightlife scene helps a city keep international status. Miami would've never done something like this... *smh*
I agree. Say it's 3:00 a.m., you can't sleep and you'd simply like to get a couple of drinks and dance for a while. It seems to me like you should have that option.

In my opinion the closing of the 24 hour clubs really hurt the city's legendary image as Hotlanta. Places like Club 112 in Buckhead, and the Cove and Backstreet in Midtown were part of what made Atlanta fun.

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Andrea I totally agree. Backstreet was infamous. I didnt care for the club too much but at 5-6 in the morning when you still feel like dancing...it was always an option.

Also, Atlanta lost Hotlanta....which was the grandaddy of all circuit parties in the world and was THE party to go to in the late 80's-90's. Kind of like White Party or Gay Days is now. Unfortunately it went bankrupt due to bad management.

There are still a few weekends of out the month you can find some sort of afterhours events going on. People in Atlanta still dance till 8 am. It is just a little less organized/more scetchy than it used to be.

I am suprised though, even with the earlier hours, the caliber of nightlife Atlanta has seen lately.

Compound won the best new club of the year in 2005 and Junior Vasquez...who rarely ventures outside of NYC or LA has had 2 events in Atlanta this year.

Atlantans are funny though...they are used to the best and wont come out unless they are getting the best.

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