Bars make final push on closing hours

Atlanta bar owners are making a last-ditch effort this week to kill city legislation that would roll last-call back to 2 a.m. If they fail, the controversial bill could fall into the lap of the full City Council early next month like an unwanted Christmas present.

Michael Krohngold of Buckhead's Tongue & Groove says he and his fellow bar owners will appear in force at a Thursday, Nov. 20, work session of the council's Public Works Committee to convince members that there are better ways to fight crime in the Buckhead bar district than by shaving two hours off closing times citywide.

It's ironic, he says, that the city is considering a move that will hit bar owners in the pocketbook at the same time Mayor Shirley Franklin is trying to scare up extra money by raising everyone's sewer bills.

While the mayor has endorsed the earlier closing hours, she hasn't put any political muscle behind moving the bill forward. That makes Councilman Howard Shook, who represents the Buckhead Village, wonder whether the measure — drafted by neighboring Councilwoman Mary Norwood — has enough support to pass the full council.

"I think the votes are there to move it out of committee," Shook says. If that happens, the bill could end up on the Dec. 4 council agenda. With the council grappling over sewer rates, however, it's likely that a vote on closing hours would be deferred until after the holidays.

Few seem willing to wager on how the vote could eventually shake out. Waldtraut Lavroff, chairwoman of Buckhead's neighborhood planning unit, is doubtful that the bill will succeed, even with the added pressure of last week's shootings outside Chaos. Even if bars are forced to close earlier, she says, most people realize that it would be only a partial remedy.

Krohngold says bar owners will make the case this week that earlier closing times is no remedy at all. Instead, bars are offering to tax themselves to hire a late-night security force and to perform self-policing.

"There are better ideas that would accomplish more," he says.

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