News - Are 24-hour alcohol sales at private clubs a problem?

No. The problem is our city council’s small-town ideology

I like to party.

One of the reasons I love living in Midtown is having a handful of bars within stumbling distance, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve greeted the dawn on the hike home from Backstreet.

It took a recent trip to Los Angeles, though, for me to realize just how backwater Atlanta’s nightlife really is. In L.A. the after-parties start at 3 a.m., and the after-after-parties get going around 7 a.m.

But in Atlanta, only a few places keep the party going after the other bars have closed, and now even those are about to dry up.

The Atlanta City Council last week unanimously passed an ordinance aimed at reining in 24-hour private clubs by limiting their hours of serving alcohol. Sure, some of those nightspots have seen serious problems — including the killing of a bouncer last year at the Crystal Palace in southwest Atlanta, and noise complaints from neighbors of Club 112 on Cheshire Bridge Road.

But the real problem here isn’t the fact that the clubs are open and pouring 24 hours; it’s a lack of security and disregard for the community from a couple of businesses. Admittedly, I can’t speak for all private clubs in the city. But in five years of partying at Backstreet (and more recently, the Riviera), I’ve never encountered any disturbances rivaling the charges against Club 112 or Crystal Palace. I’m not saying any of the clubs are blameless, but I think it shows which ones respect their neighbors.

A greater problem, though, is the City Council’s small-town ideology. The Council’s had its collective panties in a wad over the liquor issue ever since a certain linebacker got arrested here last January. The Ray Lewis case prompted Councilman Lee Morris’ attempt to close all Atlanta bars at 2 a.m., a measure that was (thank the heavens) defeated in September. The Council then went after bars serving alcohol on Sundays — a right reserved for restaurants under our puritanical legal system.

What bothers me most about the new ordinance is not so much the thought of losing a place to drink at 5 a.m. on Sunday mornings (although yes, that prospect is troublesome). It mainly bothers me that I live in a city that’s so relentlessly square. If anything, the City Council should be applauding our bars and nightclubs for making this overgrown Mayberry a destination.

And if it’s going to continue its ridiculous “Bar Wars,” the Council should focus on places causing trouble and not try to prescribe across-the-board cures like earlier closing times.

If Atlanta wants to be an “international city,” it’s time we started acting — and partying — like one.??

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