Last call comes earlier in Clarkston due to repeat violators

Credit: City of Clarkston

Credit: City of Clarkston

Did you know that you can buy drinks in Clarkston until 4 or 5 a.m. every day of the week? Well, you won’t be able to for much longer.

In a contentious vote, the Clarkston City Council voted to get rid of late-night alcohol sales after they said two restaurants on East Ponce de Leon Avenue have repeatedly violated the law. Residents complained that the two restaurants are effectively operating as nightclubs with adult entertainment and unpermitted hookah.

Starting in August, alcohol serving hours will end about two hours earlier every day. Councilwoman Laura Hopkins said the late-night hours, which were adopted in 2019 to promote business, are a detriment to the city and the residents who live near these establishments.

“It is not doing what we were hoping it would do at the time,” Hopkins said, acknowledging she wasn’t on the council in 2019 but did support the extended hours. “(The restaurants) are essentially being used as nightclubs when that was not the intent.”

Dawghouse Restaurant & Lounge was one of the two businesses mentioned by city leaders. They cited lewd advertisements for parties lasting until 5 a.m., creating trash, noise and traffic near residential neighborhoods along East Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Susan Hood, a Clarkston resident, said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting she wanted the city to repeal the 2019 ordinance and go back to “reasonable hours” for serving alcohol. Warren Hadlock, a former Clarkston councilman, also spoke up in favor of limiting hours and enforcing the city’s existing laws.

“If you overlook it, you risk someone else violating it in the future and thinking they can get away with it,” he said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “I urge you to be strict in enforcing our ordinances.”

City Manager Robin Gomez said Dawghouse’s management has made little effort “to remediate the concerns and comply with the listed city ordinances.” He said Ponce Sports City, the other troubled business, was “extremely responsive” to addressing the city’s concerns.

Clarkston audited both businesses and found Dawghouse “appears to operate a cash-only business” and that “it is quite evident that the Dawghouse Restaurant & Lounge is not operating as a restaurant,” according to city documents. Earlier this year, the business received four city code violations: failing to serve two meals per day, not having a hookah permit, not having a law enforcement officer late at night and illegal adult entertainment.

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Domineek King, owner of Dawghouse, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he plans to fight every allegation except for the unpermitted hookah sales. He said his business operates as a restaurant during the day, transitions into a lounge at night and features “go-go dancers,” not strippers or erotic dancers. The citations will be heard in municipal court July 7.

“I don’t feel like us at the Dawghouse are doing anything wrong,” King said. “We’re pretty much doing exactly what the city allows us to do. It’s how we’re operating, but they just don’t, I guess, like how we’re doing it.”

Beginning in August, restaurants won’t be able to serve alcohol after 1:55 a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays or after 2:55 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Patrons have to be finished with their food and drinks within 30 minutes of last call, and restaurants must be empty within an hour.

King said the reduced hours might force him out of business, because many of his patrons come from outside the city to keep their fun night going for a few more hours.

“If I had the money, I would up and move my location, but I don’t,” he said. “Limited hours is going to kill our businesses ... It’ll probably be our last year open.”

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Councilwoman Debra Johnson said Tuesday that Dawghouse and Ponce Sports City opened before the city added late-night alcohol hours, so they’ll have a month to adjust to the way things used to be.

“This was a bonus,” she said. “We tried it, and it didn’t work.”

Hopkins, Johnson and Councilman Mark Perkins voted to repeal late-night alcohol serving hours, while Councilman Jamie Carroll voted against it. Councilman Ahmed Hassan and Vice Mayor Awet Eyasu abstained, meaning the vote passed by a thin margin.

“We’re not shutting anyone down,” Perkins said. “We’re only rolling one piece of this back because it’s not really a good fit for where we are as a city.”

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