A large sinkhole emerged in July 2018 in the Piedmont Park Community Center as the owners of The Nook on Piedmont Park built out the space for new restaurants. (Be Our Guest)

Thousands of Music Midtown attendees could be at risk this weekend because a sinkhole found under a building next to Piedmont Park five years ago was never properly repaired, according to owners of a local restaurant. They say the danger is great enough they want a judge to order the building closed before the festival opens on Friday.

David Duley and Katherine Drolett, whose company Be Our Guest Investments owns The Nook on Piedmont Park, planned to open two restaurants at the Piedmont Park Community Center that stands next to the park’s 12th Street gate. A sinkhole opened up beneath the building during development of the space in 2018.

The 10-foot by six-foot hole thwarted Be Our Guest’s new restaurant plans and triggered a lawsuit against the Piedmont Park Conservancy, owner and landlord of the building.

The 10-foot by six-foot sinkhole found in the Piedmont Park Community Center in 2018 thwarted plans by owners of The Nook on Piedmont Park to open restaurants in the building. (Be Our Guest)

Willy’s Mexicana Grill and the Shake Shack are now located in the community center. Children’s camps are also held inside the facility, and Music Midtown’s box office will be located at the site.

Simon Bloom, attorney for Duley and Drolett, said at a Sept. 12 press conference his clients filed an emergency petition in Fulton County Superior Court that morning. The petition asks a judge to immediately shut the Piedmont Park Community Center down until the conservancy hires an expert to inspect the building and determine it is safe.

“On the eve of thousands of people making their way through Piedmont Park, and in particular to this building at the park, emergency measures must be taken by the court to ensure the safety of the public using that building,” Bloom said.

The sinkhole was filled with grout two months after it was discovered — an improper way to fix the gaping hole because nobody knew what caused it, Bloom said. A geotechnical engineer hired by Be Our Guest said in a report the failure to determine the cause of the sinkhole also leaves the possibility there are more sink holes under or around the building.

The Piedmont Park Conservancy owns the Piedmont Community Center building at the park’s 12th Street gate. Music Midtown’s box office will be located at the site this weekend. (Dyana Bagby)

Bloom also said the conservancy has lied about the investigation and remediation of a “massive sinkhole” under the Piedmont Park Community Center. He said his clients should be applauded for making the issue more about protecting the public than about a landlord-tenant dispute.

Attorney Simon Bloom discusses the sinkhole found at the Piedmont Park Community Center in 2018 at a Sept. 12 press conference.

“This [petition] is about being the neighbor of this park for decades, supporting the park, and I think genuinely in their hearts, they don’t want to see anybody get hurt,” he said.

“Does this bring into danger or threaten the viability of Music Midtown? I’ll leave that for wiser minds to conclude,” Bloom said. “But I certainly would not, if I were in charge, allow folks to access a property where there’s a known [sinkhole] which has more likely than not been continuing to expand since 2018.”

The conservancy said in a statement the sinkhole was properly repaired five years ago and the building is safe. The conservancy also accused Bloom and the owners of The Nook of being “opportunistic” by arguing their case at a called press conference days before Music Midtown.

“Any claims of unresolved structural concerns to the Piedmont Park Community Center building are simply unfounded and untrue,” the conservancy said.

“The timing of the recent press conference by a lawyer representing a former tenant in a lawsuit against the conservancy is clearly opportunistic in its effort to resurface concerns around a routine repair that took place nearly five years ago,” the conservancy said.

The conservancy also said a structural engineer “deemed the repair proper and the structure sound.” Also, the conservancy noted, two national restaurant brands with “full knowledge of the situation” have successfully and safely operated within the building.

“We look forward to sharing all information in upcoming litigation and are confident that Piedmont Park Conservancy will prevail in this landlord-tenant dispute,” the conservancy said.

“Piedmont Park Conservancy would like to assure all Music Midtown attendees that these claims and concerns are inaccurate, and we look forward to hosting the iconic music festival again this weekend.”

The case is set to go to trial Oct. 2.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.