City leaders want to expand ordinance that shut down downtown hookah lounge

ATLANTA — Atlanta city leaders are going after nuisance properties in the crackdown on crime, but some are calling the move unfair or racially-motivated.

Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston was at a downtown Atlanta hookah bar Friday that the city shut down.

The city moved quickly to shutter the Encore Hookah Lounge in late April after numerous complaints about gunfire and violence. At one point, bullets flew across the street into the Georgia Aquarium’s dolphin exhibit.

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Peyton Bell lives in the Lindridge Martin Manor neighborhood along Cheshire Bridge Road, where there have been multiple times when bullets started flying in the parking lots of the businesses near their community.

“At first, I thought it was thunder, and after it continued, I realized these are bullets being shot,” Bell said. “Five families in our neighborhood in the last year and a half have moved. And they’ve said specifically that it’s because of this club.

Bell said there have been multiple times when bullets started flying in the parking lots of the business on Cheshire Bridge Road, which is right in front of their community, putting lives in danger.

Now, the city wants to take even more action. City leaders are trying to pass an ordinance that would close businesses if there are reports of homicides, gun violence, or even multiple assaults on the property. It would be similar to how the city worked to close the hookah lounge after police were called 171 times in just two years.

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“Encore is a great example,” Councilman Dustin Hillis said. “It’s not just one particular event. There are hundreds of calls for service at that establishment.”

But at a recent public safety committee meeting, some business owners said the ordinance would ruin their small business.

“To have it where one infraction would cause us to close down in 12 months, naw, that’s a racial thing,” Duwon Robinson said.

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The ordinance said two infractions that lead to time in front of a judge and the city can shut a business down. Hillis, who is the chair of the public safety committee, said people are upset but haven’t read the ordinance. A noise complaint doesn’t get you in front of a judge.

“This ordinance is only really going to be used and only meant to apply to the worst of the worst offenders,” Hillis said.

Hillis said he pulled back the ordinance so they could work on it a little more before it goes to full council. But, he also said that this doesn’t just apply to clubs. It could also be an apartment complex that shuts down.