DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A Channel 2 Action News investigation has found that DeKalb has well over 3,000 (and perhaps over 4000) licensed businesses, but the county has shut down just one for operating without a license in three-and-a-half years.
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Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Richard Belcher started asking questions and filed a request under the Georgia Open Records Act after an 11-year-old was shot and critically wounded outside an unlicensed skating rink on Wesley Chapel Road in April.
It took DeKalb officials more than seven weeks to provide the information we requested, and when they did it, was clear that tough action against unlicensed businesses is rare.
We visited the Golden Glide skating rink where the horrific attack on 11-year old D’Mari Johnson took place. We found the rink closed in the morning, but signs posted on the front door promoting free skating this weekend and a sign seeking employees told us the rink is still operating 3 1/2 months after the shooting.
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Days after the young boy was shot, county officials acknowledged the skating rink didn’t have the required business license. That has changed.
“Golden Glide has obtained their business license, and they are in compliance. They were cited for a few infractions. They have since that time corrected those infractions,” says La’Keitha Carlos, chief of staff to DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond.
Carlos told Channel 2 that the skating rink was not penalized for the infractions.
The Golden Glide case prompted us to ask: How many other businesses are operating just like that? This is for certain: Closing DeKalb businesses for failure to have a license is a rare event. According to records obtained through our open records request, Old Scottish Inn motel on Wesley Chapel Road is the only business closed for lack of a license since January 1, 2019. By coincidence, the motel is less than a mile north of the Golden Glide.
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Carlos says the county can’t just close a business that is out of compliance.
“The business has several opportunities to come into compliance, to pay that fee for the business license, and if the don’t, they can be cited. And once they are cited, that has to go through the court system,” Carlos told Channel 2.
How many other Scottish Inns or Golden Glides might there be in DeKalb?
As of December 31, 2021, DeKalb had 4,008 licensed businesses. As of April 16 of this year -- the deadline for making 2022 payments -- there were 3,342, nearly 700 fewer. Are they out of business? Did they move? Are they operating without a license?
Carlos says it’s impossible to know, but code compliance will look for the ones that haven’t paid.
“That department then goes out and investigates and inspects businesses and gets them to get into compliance, and generally speaking we are successful at doing that,” Carlos said.
Asked if DeKalb “dropped the ball” in the skating rink case, Carlos said flatly, “No.”
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