By Kathy Dean
Business owners are organizing to respond to a city proposal to make Brookhaven bars close earlier.
While some citizens voice concerns about noise and possible DUIs with later bar closings, some business owners say they are concerned with being able to stay in business.
The city so far has allowed business owners with DeKalb County liquor licenses to stay open until 3:55 a.m., the closing time imposed in the county. The Brookhaven City Council is considering rolling back closing times to about 2 a.m.
While it may only seem like a few hours, the change could bring a big impact.
Todd Lantier, chairman of the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce, wants to be sure that the needs of the city are balanced with the needs of the city’s businesses. He said those needs often go hand in hand.
“The proposal to reduce the pouring hours will have little to no impact on the majority of alcohol pouring establishments in the city …,” he said. “However, we have our share of establishments that, you could say, specialize in staying open late, and serve a niche market that contributes significantly to their bottom line. The reduction in Brookhaven’s pouring times effectively eliminates their competitive advantage.
“This will cause a chain of events including, but not limited to, significant loss of business revenue, significant loss of tax revenue, loss of permitting revenue, loss of jobs and, ultimately, loss of businesses in Brookhaven.”
City officials plan to host a public meeting in Lupton Hall at Oglethorpe Univeristy from 4 to 6 p.m on May 12 to discuss alcohol serving times.
Lantier said a report from Experience Insight Group shows retailers of beer, wine and liquor reported $7,201,581 in sales in 2013. The report does not include dining establishments, which earn upward of $60 million, he said.
“I would venture to say those sales contribute a fair amount of revenue for our city. If you take away the commercial base, the revenue has to be generated by the residential base,” he said. “The citizens and our City Council need to realize that without the bar and restaurant scene in Brookhaven, for which we are known, this will become a very expensive place to live.”
Old Blind Dog Irish Pub on Town Boulevard serves upscale pub food and spirits. Manager Jon Blalock pointed out that the restaurant generally closes at 2 a.m., but the county allows them to serve until nearly 4 a.m.
“Sometimes we’re still busy after 2 a.m., and we’ll still serve customers at least until 3 a.m. on weekends,” he said. “We’re a neighborhood pub and restaurant. Earlier closing hours might reduce noise and DUIs in places with a strong bar scene, or for bars that just serve alcohol, but not for neighborhood restaurants.”
Kaleidoscope, a gastropub on Dresden Drive, has an active bar scene after 10 p.m. Doug Gross, owner/managing partner, said that closing early would definitely have a negative impact.
“Our closing hours are not set, and usually on a Monday or Tuesday, we’ll close by midnight or 1 a.m. But on a Friday or Saturday, absolutely, it will affect our bottom line. There can be 30 or 40 people at the bar, and if we close at 2 a.m., we have to stop serving them.”
Gross added that most people who eat at Kaleidoscope walk home or use a designated driver program, and said he has never gotten a noise complaint. He attended some council meetings last year when the issue was first brought up, but did not recall any hard data about the noise and DUI issue or whether limiting pouring hours would alleviate the problems.
“My opinion is that it’s a code enforcement issue. If there’s a problem spot, put up DUI checkpoints,” he suggested. “The bottom line is that we’ll adapt, and other businesses will be impacted more than we will. Still, any time you take away hours, you affect a business’ ability to make money.”
Lantier said that the Chamber is providing a platform for business owners and the city to come together.
“We would also like to give the citizens of our community the opportunity to voice their opinions as well,” Lantier said.
“The Chamber is pro-business, but that does not mean we are anti-city. Our desire is to promote an environment by which solutions can be presented and possible compromises can be reached.”