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How would 4 a.m. last call change Atlanta entertainment?

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Last call is 2:30 a.m. in Atlanta clubs and bars, like Mary's in East Atlanta, but there's talk again of making it 4 a.m. AJC file photo

It’s baaaaaaack!

Not Atlanta’s 4 a.m. last call, but the discussion about Atlanta’s 4 a.m. last call.

Should last call in Atlanta move back to 4 a.m.?

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Per an AJC story, Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall introduced legislation Monday to request the city study revenue opportunities of shifting last call from 2:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. (”Revenue opportunities” = alcohol sales tax.) The legislation went to the council’s Finance/Executive committee for discussion. Hall asked for a summary report by Jan. 30.

Everyone in Atlanta seems to have an opinion on life in a later late-night town. Some recall it fondly, as if we haven’t had any fun since. Some of you are horrified, as if every night before 2004 was sleepless one. (I didn’t live here and I don’t have much context for what life was like. My neighborhood is pretty tame. If Mrs. Birdsong so much as raises an eyebrow, everyone apologizes and disperses quietly.)

For those that don’t remember: the council voted in December 2003 to push back last call to 2:30 a.m. largely in response to complaints from Buckhead residents and violence outside some nightclubs. Since then, entertainment districts have shifted, and so has the in-town population.

We’ve talked before about whether neighborhoods and nightclubs can co-exist, but this takes the question to neighborhoods, nightclubs and hours of the night. Let’s just consider it. Pretend that as of January 1, Atlanta goes back to being a 4 a.m. town.

Knowing how Atlanta’s population and entertainment districts have changed in the last five years, what would happen if last call went back to 4 a.m.? Would you want to live in Atlanta? Hang out there? Travel there?

Before you comment, remember that this is a blog about fun things to do in Atlanta — we’re not arguing about politics or race here. Focus, and treat each other with respect. Let’s push the conversation forward.

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43 comments Add your comment

Hospitality Industrialist

November 17th, 2009
11:29 am

Prior to the election of Mayor Franklin Atlanta was known as Hotlanta with a vibrant Hospitality Industry. One of Mayor Franklin’s campaign promises was to enforce the State Law concerning Sunday alcohol sales. The Law states that the enforcement of Sunday sales shall be at the discretion of the local jurisdiction; that meaning that Atlanta could at its discretion haves Sunday sales of alcohol by the drink. The earlier last call and enforcement of the Sunday by the drink sales effectively destroyed Hotlanta and has driven away a huge portion of Atlanta’s convention business to other cities at a time our city could least afford that loss.

Jamie Gumbrecht

November 17th, 2009
11:50 am

Interesting. What’s your view on what would happen if the last call time were to go back to 4 a.m.?

William

November 17th, 2009
12:01 pm

The nitelife in Atlanta is nothing like it was when I moved to Atlanta, this was once the place that all my friends wanted to visit, now we go to Miami or NYC to party it up. I think that if last call was to go back to 4 a.m. it would make the nitelife much better here and things would be no different than they are now. The city should start to only allow clubs in non residential areas and let them go 24\7 if they want, a more vibrant nitelife and more money for the club owners/city.

D.Baker

November 17th, 2009
12:13 pm

I like the 24/7 idea for specific districts, I agree that it will help out nightlife immensely.

DJinATL

November 17th, 2009
1:12 pm

I agree that Atlanta’s nightlife has died. Atlanta was definitly the place to be and nightlife was a big part of it. The stopping of alcohol sales at 2:30 and the end of our few 24 hour clubs changed Atlanta forever. Now we are just another Southern city with strict party laws. Who wants to come here? Miami was smart enough to realize what was gained by having a 24 hour district. Clubs in South Beach close at 5am, but the party can go all night in downtown. One benfit to later closing times is that not everyone leaves the club at the same time. At 2:30 everyone is still in the club and all walks out together. Seems like more trouble can brew that way.

Jay

November 17th, 2009
1:15 pm

As someone thats works in the Atlanta nightlife, I have wanted this change for years. Like it or not, Atlanta is a young, vibrant, Big event and party city. With the money problems the city is facing why not tap into a willing tax base that could boost revenue and bring back the entertainment dollars that flooded the city in the 90’s but has all but gone in this decade. And to the buckhead people, are you telling me that your happier with rows of unbuild businesses that were to replace the bars and nightclubs that for better or worse, brought money in for buckhead. Do the right thing City Council

Jamie Gumbrecht

November 17th, 2009
3:32 pm

Let’s hear more about this 24/7 district idea — what neighborhoods or areas of neighborhoods would you tap for late hours or a 24/7 schedule?

Jeff

November 17th, 2009
4:23 pm

Atlanta has become a boring town. I can’t even call it a city anymore. It’s not just the lack of a 4am bar closing time. It’s because so many conservative people moved into Atlanta after the Olympics wanting a city lifestyle.

Many of them wanted to be close to work, too. All of this is fine. But what they brought with them was a suburban view of life. Collectively this new set of Atlantans forced new bar closing hours; forced many gay bars and primarily blacks bars to close; forced the great 24 bars down; made Piedmont Park a sterile museum-like place; forced the bohemian artist mentality out of midtown, Virginia-Highland, and L5P. Atlanta has lost its funkiness, its quirkiness, its soul.

Reinstating a 4am bar closing time would be great. But we need cool clubs again. We need a Stein Club, we need a Backstreet, we need a Rio, a Celebrity Club, a Buckhead bar scene that was fun and the envy of many cities. We need an art scene again to coexist with the bar scene.

There is plenty of warehouse space downtown or on the west side that is not near any residential neighborhoods that could house a 24 hour bar. There are plenty of people in this city with great ideas. If the restrictive ordinances went away, life would return to this city. I don’t hold out much hope.

I can’t explain one more time to visitors as to why they can’t buy wine or vodka at a store on Sunday. It’s just embarrassing. I also can’t explain to my NYC, SF, or LA friends why a club like Vision has such hostility against from residents who oppose its reopening. It is steeped in racism and the fact that a large part of Atlanta wants to tell others to live a conservative lifestyle. Many want everyone to be in bed by 11pm and in church on Sunday. Until this is resolved, Atlanta will remain a 2nd tier town.

McGavin

November 17th, 2009
4:31 pm

24/7 Districts should include but not be limited to: West Midtown/Westside, Castleberry Hill/Downtown Atlanta/Old 4th Ward, Underground Atlanta/Luckie Marietta District.

I think Midtown/Buckhead/VaHi should remain with the 2:30am closing times If they so desire since the large residential component would obviously come into play.

MidtownRes

November 17th, 2009
9:01 pm

I disagree with the tax revenue arguement for 90 more mins of bar time. Note that the cash collected at the door and VIP tables isn’t declared for taxes (let’s be honest) and a few more drinks won’t make a significant contribution to Atlanta’s fiscal problems. If you’re truely concerned about tax revenue generation, then you should consider the $20M+/year that is contributed from property tax from just the new home owners in Midtown. The amount of city resources (police, litter clean up, etc) needed for 90 more mins of bar time, I would spectulate, actually makes a negative effect to the city’s revenue.

Admittedly, I miss the the 24/7 clubs but they would no longer fit in Midtown, IMHO. The dynamic has changed (Google – ‘Midtown Mile Vision’). But I think that there are other areas that could use the clubs. It’ll be interesting to see the effect of the SPI Club in midtown next month too.

Justin

November 17th, 2009
11:25 pm

This is the only way I can see staying in Atlanta. People were getting murdered in Buckhead and they blamed time, as if people were perfectly fine but at 3:45 suddenly got this urge to shoot somebody. A murderer is a murderer, no matter what the time is. Those clubs and that whole scene is gone now anyway. My part of town has suffered extensively from this change. Atlanta is a city of young people, and young people like to go out. The downturn in conventions has definitely hurt our economy. People want to have fun, there’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s paternalistic as hell to try and tell people “nothing good happens after 2am”.

Matt B.

November 17th, 2009
11:55 pm

As a 26 year-old professional male who enjoys going out to Buckhead, I think the 2:30am last call is adequate. The kind of people who want to stay out until 4am are better off in Miami anyway. Take the party back to your place after 2:30.

Allen

November 18th, 2009
12:17 am

Atlanta desperately needs 24/7 nightlife again to set itself apart from its’ competitors in the convention business. Atlanta needs it for its’ economy . . . more hotel rooms, more taxi rides, more gas, more tax, more liquor tax, more conventions, more visitors, etc., etc. City officials have no clue the amount of damage that was done by closing Backstreet — an Atlanta institution — a place everyone, including out of towners and international visitors knew where to go after hours when visiting from out of town. Unfortunately, for many people, that has been taken away. Having 24/7 clubs also helps the earlier bars . . . more people want to go out because it doesn’t have to end at 2:30am. To the person who claimed later bar hours or 24/7 clubs would require more police and therefore not be worth it, why not apply that same argument to large conventions? Maybe we can’t afford to host conventions of 50-70,000 people because “we don’t have enough police”. It is a specious argument lacking in true factual evidence. Atlanta has been hurt more by the early closing hours than most people realize — you’ve killed the entertainment, nightlife, bar business — no one wants to open a new club and many tax-paying residents (including this one), visitors, and people who enjoy having a good time have been disenfranchised as a result.

count_schemula

November 18th, 2009
12:57 am

Build it right and good things would have happened. Atlanta in the 90’s was still raw clay and it’s pretty hard to say that between the city government and the freedom given to developers that we have anything here to be proud of. The condo glut is ghetto waiting to happen. Street level is harsh sterile concrete and prefab facades and not somewhere you want to hang. The streets are not safe. Public transit has been a joke since the get go. Riding bicycles takes courage. Blacks are reacting to gentrification. Whites are bringing their uptight suburban value systems with them. No noise! Black people are scary! More speedbumps everywhere! Basically, it’s go out to eat then rush home to watch TV. I remember sitting in bars on Peachtree and 9th, hanging out with people of all places and colors and art students until 4am or later and walking around midtown without getting jacked. Now intown and Alpharetta are the same. Crappy. Way to go Atlanta. One giant ass strip mall.

count_schemula

November 18th, 2009
12:58 am

Glad people like Matt B. chose intown and not East Cobb. Not!

cb

November 18th, 2009
1:45 am

Oh, Atlanta… You need to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and brush yourself off. Your life depends on it. There needs to be 24/7 sales in the grocery stores. Build dog and horse tracks (Hey, Florida can do it and is overrun by old farts!) and REAL casinos (not the plastic ones that the lottery commission is trying to push – lol!) There are many horse farms that supply other states. We need tourism dollars and not just from trout fishermen and campers. There needs to be clubs that can stay open around the clock if they so chose and if they meet restrictions concerning neighborhoods etc. There needs to be live entertainment in the parks every weekend. We need 24 hour public transportation. We need the belt line! There are people that work and play all hours of the day, support them, they pay taxes too. We have raised a brave and beautiful city, we put alot of work into it, we can’t sit back on our laurels, we will get passed up and wither. Like a horse race, everyone cheered Atlanta on as she passed all the other horses, heading to the finish line and damn if she didn’t stumble and fall all over herself. Come on Atlanta – GET UP! In this beaten down economy, you have to draw people here, not just milk them as they pass through the state to get to Florida! The new city buzz line needs to be….. DESTINATION: ATLANTA!

Trevoir Hudson

November 18th, 2009
7:03 am

ABSOLUTELY in favor of returning closing time back to 4AM (and last call @ 345am).

I am a native NYer who have resided in Atlanta coming up on 15 yrs now (so I’ve been here for pre-Olympics and during Atlanta nightlife hay-days). It’s time Atlanta face reality and start acting like a MAJOR METROPOLITAN city it is versus trying to maintain this small, southern city of the Gone With the Wind days.

Years ago, those residing in Buckhead were younger and in favor of bringing Atlanta’s nightlife there (taking it away from south and east side cities like College Park and Decatur) because it provided their businesses traffic and revenue. Now they’ve “matured” and received more than just the business traffic and revenue that came with being Atlanta’s nightlife area, now they want it residential again. Come on, we can see through all your intentions.

Voice of Reason #1

November 18th, 2009
7:33 am

[Uh, NO I hadn't already voted in this poll; check your system, please. And for the record, I voted "No."] The problem in Atlanta is crime. And while I hate to agree with CC above, when Buckhead became “BuckHood” the perception of safe, enjoyable fun in Atlanta plummeted. Ray Lewis’ incident, etc. was ~the beginning of the end. 2:30AM is more than enough time. There’s not much good to happen after midnight anyway. Go home and make love or sleep off that alcohol. I don’t live in the city proper anyway (I like to be safe and see my property value go up), an am glad I didn’t move to Buckhead as I’d initially planned. VOTE for MARY NORWOOD!!!!!!!! You people better get out there and vote if you want a change from what has become atl’s pathetic norm.

It's all about crime

November 18th, 2009
7:46 am

Sorry, but I too agree that crime is what made Atlanta have to change. Like others stated, you can thank the Ray Lewis incident as being one of the biggest factors. While I agree it’s great for a big city to have a vibrant night life, people can’t be afriad to be in the city at night either…You can thank the incompetence of the Shirley Administration for not handling the crime problem.

Just look at Underground Atlanta. Back in the 60s and early 70s, that was a happening place. Now, I wouldn’t be caught dead there (no pun intened). Get rid of the crime elements affecting our city, and the problem will be solved. NY is the largest city in the country and is statistically safer than Atlanta…

Rick Day

November 18th, 2009
8:08 am

re: 24/7 district: I’d put these in areas where there is little or no impact to residences. There are many commercial zones in Midtown (Spring south of 5th, W. Peachtree, etc) where few people, if any, reside. Put a 1000 ft restriction, allow those few residences affected to fill out a simple form acknowledging the venue’s privilege to stay open 24/7 and you solve the biggest issues Buckhead had 6 years ago.

Jamie Gumbrecht

November 18th, 2009
8:47 am

Hey folks, this is a reminder that this is a space for discussion, not for race-baiting, name-calling or pronouncement for anyone to go anywhere else. This is Atlanta, we’re all here, so let’s talk about the issue — moving last call and what that the result of that would be — respectfully.

tony

November 18th, 2009
9:00 am

The following cities have no last call/4am

New Orleans – No last call
Atlantic City – No last call
Miami – No last call
Las Vegas – No last call
BIRMINGHAM, AL – No last call (Yes, Birmingham)

Buffalo, Ny – 4am
NYC – 4am
Hawaii – 4am
Louisville – 4am
Albany, NY – 4am
Alaska – 5am
Peorna – 4am

tony

November 18th, 2009
9:02 am

4am last call for Midtown

24/7 for all of downtown and parts of Cheshire Bridge Rd/Peidmont area

Art Vandalay

November 18th, 2009
10:13 am

umm..to the first poster, you CAN by alcohol by the drink on Sundays.

Art Vandalay

November 18th, 2009
10:17 am

also i agree with the suggestions of 24 hr districts. Buckhead and Virginia Highland type areas dont need anything more than 2:30 am, but areas such as Crescent Street and Luckie/Marietta that are tourist spots should be 24/7 it gives visitors something to do and keeps the after hours riff raff contained.

JW

November 18th, 2009
10:19 am

I’m for doing this – and I don’t think the increased tax revenues would come from the sale of alcohol as much as it would from the recovery of some of our lost convention business. I worked in the hospitality in the late 90’s which as far as I know was the height of convention business in Atlanta (I always heard we were the fourth most popular city in the U.S.). This changed first with Bill Campbell cracking down on strip clubs, and then with the roll back of closing time. I believe both were lame attempts to address crime, when what we should have been doing was putting more officers on foot beats. The idea that 4am closing = more crime is not born out by the City of Decatur crime stats compared to Atlanta’s. Why do those who oppose this idea by citing increased crime want to ignore that fact?

JW

November 18th, 2009
10:20 am

At Art Vandalay – only in a restaurant that serves a higher percentage of food than booze; clubs have to be closed.

Art Vandalay

November 18th, 2009
10:33 am

at JW,
I agree the perception alone to the convention and tourism industries would be HUGE. But there is no reason as i said that neighborhood bar districts that tourists rarely venture to such as L5P and Virginia Highlands, or even now Buckhead need to have a 4am closing. Midtown and Downtown need to be the tourism and nightlife centers and by giving them and them only a 4am last call it will have bar operators lining up to find a locations. But there needs to be STRICT restrictions on WHO is opening the place and WHAT it is because call it what you want but certain night life concepts harbor more crime than others. It needs to be for the tourist dollars and business men here for a convention are going to Ri Ra, or Front page news type places, not Opera.
There also needs to be a huge police present in those areas, like Times Square cops on every corner presence and a very very strict enforcement of the no panhandling law, because a 4 am last call does no good if nobody feels safe there.

JW

November 18th, 2009
10:53 am

at Art Vandalay

Yeah, I have no problem with creating districts.

However, I do draw the line at determining what “type” of establishments should be allowed. Let consumers figure that out and by extension, the types of business will too. If the place is doing something illegal, then enforce the law. Precluding honest, normal businesses from operating because of a few bad seeds is a bureaucratic and unproductive approach in my opinion. I also don’t know that your assessment of where conventioneers want to go. I say, provide them with choices and they’ll go where they like. For now, it’s obvious that convention consumers have spoken by telling Atlanta “You’re no fun anymore and we’re going to other places.” It’s up to the city council to fix that ASAP.

j b knows cornbread

November 18th, 2009
12:03 pm

atlanta sucks, thats why i left haha

cb

November 18th, 2009
1:36 pm

When they turned Underground Atlanta in to family oriented “mall” to by shoes and icecream – I just rolled my eyes in wonderment. I emailed Pitts (no response) about how even back then it needed to cater to ADULTS not adolescents and strollerz. There it went, full force into malldom and it ruined what Underground had left relating to the good ole days, what the world remembered when you mentioned “Underground”. Look at it now! Wow! Let’s [not] Go! As for the 4am closing time, there are so many watering holes tucked in here and there, that never make a blip on the radar, they should not be left out of the roll forward. 24/7 is the way to go… you don’t have to say open 24/7 but it should be your chioce providing you are ok with the surrounding community. If there is only one 24/7 club every one has to got there, what a mess… there needs to be as many as wht businesses want to partake. The more you have, the more dispersed, the less problems with traffic and noise, the better for all…. Grow up Atlanta, and to some of these posters, get with it and think outside of your closed up little world. Especially, nothing good happens after 2:30am go home with your buzz you had enough. Well fool, people get off work at 2:am and are enlitled to partake in a cold one and a burger too. Go back under your 9-5 ROCK !!!

Polly

November 18th, 2009
2:14 pm

It’s easy to say a 4am last call will solve the world’s problems if you don’t actually live in one of the areas that may be affected. I do live in one of those neighborhoods and we’re struggling enough with all the noise, illegal parking, crime, loitering, littering, speeding and harrassment that comes at 2:30am. No thanks.

dizzy

November 18th, 2009
2:42 pm

The revenue being made will be in more dui’s, more road blocks, more police and more idiots getting in fights at Waffle House. It is much more logical and more revenue generating to just sell booze on Sunday.

JW

November 18th, 2009
3:03 pm

Polly – what makes you think that all of us in favor of the idea don’t live in impacted areas? I lived in Midtown until just a few months ago and I have no problem with the idea of 4am; I also can’t say that I saw or see an exorbitant amount of the things you’re describing. I currently live in Grant Park very near to the Standard on Memorial and would welcome more places to go and hang out. I think the answer isn’t to continue to restrict bar hours but to increase enforcement by adding more officers; having more revenue would allow us to hire the officers we need for the task.

OntheEdge

November 18th, 2009
5:34 pm

“…having more revenue would allow us to hire the officers we need for the task” – what guarantee do you have of this? We were also told 4 years ago that the exorbitant water increases we were facing in the City were going to be used to fix the water/sewer lines, yet the hikes continue and the lines in our area are no better. The LRB and City is far more concerned with being sued by a bar/restaurant owner for questioning or not allowing any and all licenses that they don’t care about the impact on nearby residents. The system is broken! Fix the system, find a way to retain officers (most come here for training and then leave) and build the APD, then come discuss 4am last call…now is not the time!

JW

November 19th, 2009
11:06 am

At OntheEdge:

Your name says it all as your frustration is palatable. Not sure where you live but I have seen a great deal of work done on the water and sewer lines throughout midtown; it takes time and it’s a big mess to fix, but it is happening.

There is no guarantee that the increased revenue will go to adding more cops, but we can’t hire more without officers without more revenue (either earned or saved elsewhere). We should have hired more back when we had the fourth highest volume of conventions in the country, but instead, we chased that volume and revenue away and now have to furlough officers when we need them the most.

You may be right about now not being the best time to roll back closing times, but we definitely need to start thinking about why we’ve lost the revenue and conventions that we have. Discussing this is a relevant and import thing to do and I’m glad Councilperson Hall is raising the issue.

Johnson

November 19th, 2009
6:29 pm

Since 2003,…

How much in sales tax (8%) and “by the drink” (3.5%) tax revenues has the city missed?
How many conventions has Atlanta lost to other cities?
How many police officers lost their ability to earn a supplemental income which was not paid by the city, but individual businesses and business associations?
How many potential crimes were prevented by those “extra-job” officers?
How many more property crimes were committed during the extra hours of “ghost town”?
How many crimes would not have been committed with open businesses, lights on, and potential witnesses out and about?
How many service/entertainment industry jobs have been lost?
How many service/entertainment workers got new jobs just outside the city limits, and have been making A LOT of money off of Atlanta? (I did once upon a time. Thanks Decatur!)

And…
How well has the special interest, “entertainment district” known as Underground Atlanta fared while having the exclusive privilege of remaining open until 4AM? Who holds those interests?…Look into it.

I don’t know the answers. I’m just asking the questions.

One more,

When and where is the PUBLIC hearing on Monday, November 23?

Ryan

November 20th, 2009
3:14 pm

If you can’t ingest a sufficient amount of alcohol by 2:30a, you probably need therapy, not a later last call.

Castleberry

November 20th, 2009
8:28 pm

As a resident in a mixed commercial/residential neighborhood, I cannot agree to a later “last call”. The residents of Castleberry Hill have been plagued with problems from neighborhood restaurants/clubs. Some say it is the “new” Buckhead. I don’t have a problem with allowing clubs unlimited hours in non-residential neighborhoods, but there has to be compromise in a mixed neighborhood.

Castleberry

November 20th, 2009
8:48 pm

One other thought…..after reading all of the previous comments, I realize that at least one person out there doesn’t understand how large the residential component is in Castleberry Hill. There are several thousand people living in those buildings in a very small area. Please–we have enough noise, loitering, illegal parkers blocking our driveways, littering and lack of respect for our beautiful neighborhood. A later last call is not for this area!

[...] now, there’s been an interesting discussion about it over in a post from last week, “How would 4 a.m. last call change Atlanta?” Let’s keep the discussion moving forward in a respectful way. The more perspectives, [...]

Rob

December 2nd, 2009
5:10 pm

I’m about 3 weeks late to the party, but I loved the article. Sadly I never got to know the Atlanta with the 4 AM last call, but I have some great memories of the Buckhead strip (currently known as the rubble along Peachtree Rd). It’s unfortunate that Atlanta no longer has a centralized party place like the Buckhead Strip used to serve as or Cresent Ave used to be before Vision shut down and Hush burned to the ground. I think Orlando has probably done the best with Pleasure Island. That’s an amazing area with everything contained. Atlanta recently turned a trouble-area around when they built Atlantic Station, maybe they could do the same for a “party central” (ideally along a Marta rail line that should stays open long enough to deter drunk driving).

john

December 3rd, 2009
9:23 am

4am. I remember those days. I glad I got older and wiser. Those were fun times back then.