Peter Thomas outraged by former Grant Park Bar One neighbors

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Peter Thomas ran a tapas bar and lounge called Bar One in Grant Park for three years. The venue was featured frequently on "Real Housewives of Atlanta," including last night's episode, which was taped in July.

But Thomas, the husband of "Housewives" castmate Cynthia Bailey, recently closed Bar One because banks had foreclosed on the rental property and he was unable to buy the property himself. The foreclosure, he said, had nothing to do with him. He said earlier this year that $100,000 of his rental money was never passed on to the bank for the mortgage but pocketed by the owners, who were eventually foreclosed on by Fidelity Bank.

"I offered the bank a lucrative offer," Thomas said in an exclusive interview recently. "They completely dismissed me. I was dealt with extreme prejudice."

A company called Decatur Properties, run by Stephen H. Brolly and James B. Miller, purchased the Bar One property for $1.2 million June 3 and still own the property. Decatur Properties is a subsidiary of Fidelity Bank. Thomas said Fidelity rebuffed him.

The previous owners were Andrew Wittingham, Alfred Wittingham and Eloshua Elliott, according to a public notice filed in the Daily Report in May.

The property, now identified in public records as 701 Memorial Drive instead of 687 Memorial Drive, sat empty without any signs whatsoever that it's up for rent or sale when I stopped by on Thursday, November 13. A bank spokesman declined to comment about the property, saying they normally don't talk about foreclosures.

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Thomas is now getting permits for a new Bar One locale in the Old Fourth Ward at 253 Auburn Ave. but got peeved last month when the 4th & S.A.N.D. Neighborhood Association heard rumors from Grant Park that he was trouble.

Old Fourth Ward Business Association president Joe Stewardson dismissed the negativity. "I don't put much store in rumors," he wrote me in an email from Tokyo. "I think it is likely some for the negative feelings may involve previous businesses at that location. Intown neighborhoods are growing and as they do it becomes increasingly important that businesses owners and residents communicate and work with each other. The Old 4th Ward Business Association was created in part to do just that. It's the only way to create the sustainable communities we all want. I believe Peter and Bar One will be a great addition to the O4W and, in particular, the Sweet Auburn Corridor. I look forward to working with him and all business owners to make sure we are all here for a very long time."

Thomas felt his bar and lounge was a good neighbor but never felt welcome.  Neighbors would call the cops complaining about noise, drunkenness and cars parked in the neighborhood, he said.

"I paid my bills on time," Thomas said. "I went through the processes legally to open my business. We had no citations on my property, no fights, no shootings. I employed four police officers four days a week." He said he spent $6,000 a month on the cops to ensure patrons weren't rowdy and noisy leaving the bar, especially when they parked on residential side streets.

When I visited the neighborhood Thursday afternoon, I met a couple of neighbors. Brad Wright, who lives about 120 feet from Bar One, said he didn't even know it had closed. "The noise didn't bother me," said Wright, who has lived on McDonald St. behind Bar One for three years. "I could barely hear it." He said he visited the bar once but it wasn't to his taste.

Warren Smith, who lives part-time on a house abutting the back of Bar One, said he has called police on the bar for parking issues and a security light that he said blinds people going down his stairs at night. The noise didn't bug him. He said he has written emails to Thomas but never got a response.

Thomas said he believes he was the only lounge-type establishment in Grant Park catering to blacks in the neighborhood. At the same time, he rarely if ever saw the white neighbors come by, which he resented. "If they had, they'd see how beautiful it was," he said. "They don't like the music. They don't like the culture. They don't like us.... I could tell you 1,000 people walked through every week. Not even one percent was white. That tells you the times we live in."

Restaurants down the street such as Six Feet Under and Tin Lizzy's are more diverse.

Thomas, who previously owned said he lives on Glenwood Ave. and his wife's modeling agency is nearby. "We pay taxes in this neighborhood," he said. "We'd like to see the neighborhood do better."

But Lauren Rocereta, president of the Grant Park Neighborhood Association, described Thomas differently than how he described himself.

"Peter Thomas was not forthcoming and was not a good neighbor," she wrote me in an email. "A business with loud music and a boisterous clientele is better suited for a location where there are no homes nearby. Many Grant Park neighbors' quiet enjoyment of their homes was negatively impacted. We wish him success in his new location."

She said in a follow-up interview that she had never met Thomas and he never showed up to any of their meetings, though representatives of his have done so. (Thomas said he has attended meetings before and even signed a Grant Park "good neighbor policy.")

Rocereta said race had nothing to do with the neighbor complaints. She said a music venue owned by a white guy in Grant Park has caused similar complaints. And there were noise issues when a Mexican restaurant that had been on Bar One's property played music too loud as well, she said.

Thomas said he hopes to have his new Bar One on Auburn Ave. open by early spring of 2015.

After I interviewed Thomas, I found that Bar One had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March of 2013 although his finances were not really in bad shape. In a filing to the court of his financials in February, 2013, he actually made a net income of $951 on more than $98,278 in revenue. (That particular month, he paid $2,700 in police protection, the statement said.) The case was ultimately dismissed in January, 2014.

Heather Kenney, Thomas' business manager, said the filing was a preventive measure to protect assets because Thomas was worried about the messy landlord situation at the property.  She thinks a new investor is lined up for the Memorial Drive property, which is why Fidelity has no signage there.

"We're going to a positive force in the Sweet Auburn area," Kenney said.

Thomas' prior club in downtown Atlanta called Uptown Restaurant and Lounge but closed its doors in 2010, which he blamed at the time on the recession.

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