New ‘pop-up’ nightclub in Vine City disturbing neighbors

Credit: Matt Bruce

Credit: Matt Bruce

For the past five months, Atlanta police and city leaders have taken a hardline approach against “nuisance” nightclubs, cracking down on after-hours businesses that attract violence or are rife with city code violations.

But a new “pop-up” club in Vine City, Dome Atlanta, has become notorious for operating well past the city’s 3 a.m. closing hour and blasting music so loudly that people hear the bass pounding in their bedrooms from blocks away.

“I go out, I love the music,” said Daryl Graham, who lives about four blocks away from the nightclub. “But no neighborhood or residence should have to hear that thumping, loud music 3,000 feet away from 10:30 at night to 5 in the morning.”

According to the Atlanta Police Department, the Georgia Department of Revenue’s Alcohol and Tobacco division issued the club’s owners a “cease and desist” letter May 17. It was not immediately clear exactly what the demand letter called for.

Councilman Antonio Brown represents the city’s District 3 where Dome Atlanta is located. He met with the club’s owner Alex Gidewon on Monday and said they devised a way to divert the noise from residences. Brown plans to unveil those fixes during a press conference outside the club at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“These folks are not being bad players and just trying to be disruptive. They’re working towards finding solutions. So to me, that’s the number one priority,” the councilman said.

Dome Atlanta has neither walls nor a roof. The club is housed under a large, white tent situated just across the street from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It was set up on a 2.6-acre vacant lot along Northside Drive, in the heart of Vine City’s residential district. The west end of the tent structure sits within feet of many homes in the historic, predominantly African American neighborhood on the outskirts of downtown.

The windowless tent resembles an inflatable igloo and is surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. Some detest it as an eyesore for the community. Others complain of inadequate parking at the venue, which sends patrons spilling into the surrounding neighborhood to find parking.

Thousands flocked to the club when Atlanta hosted NBA All-Star Weekend festivities March 5-7. Parked cars lined both sides of Northside Drive and traffic clogged residential roads. Some partygoers blocked driveways while other bold revelers illegally parked in people’s yards. Residents complained that they couldn’t get home. One single mother claimed a man pulled a gun on her when she confronted him about parking in her yard.

The Atlanta Police Department fielded 66 calls for service at the club’s address between Feb. 7 and May 3, according to dispatch records provided by APD. Fifty-six of them came during All-Star Weekend in March.

But the main concern has been the noise.

“Your head is on the pillow and the pillow is vibrating,” said Jennifer Ade, who has lived in a home about six blocks away for the past 10 years. “We’re in the middle of the city, there’s going to be city sounds. ... But when your bed is vibrating, that’s not the same type of thing. That’s not acceptable.”

Graham, who moved to the neighborhood in 1993, said it sounds like an outdoor concert blaring right outside his doorstep. Residents described their walls vibrating and windows shaking from the sheer volume that pulsates from the club. Graham characterized it as a continuous thumping that lasts for six or seven hours. Both Graham and Ade agreed that the DJ’s shout outs over the music are the most jarring element of the noise.

“It’s crystal clear,” Graham said. “Every word he says. You can hear him as if he was right here.”

The former Vine City Civic Association president said he began receiving phone calls from residents in late January when technicians were testing the club’s sound system. Since then, many have turned to him to resolve the issue.

“Atlanta should not be allowing clubs to just violate the law like that. That’s unacceptable,” Graham said. “And they need to they need to answer to why that they haven’t enforced it.”

Dome Atlanta is one of three locations under the “Dome in the City” umbrella. It’s a brand of event venues that use high-definition laser projectors to create a virtual backdrop against the roof of the white tents. Two other dome-themed clubs are up and running in Baltimore and downtown Miami. Gidewon, a prominent Atlanta-based promoter, unveiled his concept at the Miami nightclub during Super Bowl Weekend.

Club owner Gidewon could not be reached immediately for comment Monday.

District 2 City Councilman Amir Farokhi recently introduced a “nuisance ordinance” poised to give the city power to revoke or suspend a nightclub’s liquor license if it’s tied to multiple acts of violence. Night spots that foster a climate of violence could also fit the bill for a public nuisance. Atlanta City Council passed the measure unanimously as part of its consent agenda May 17.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is expected to sign the ordinance into law. She issued an administrative order in December establishing a working group to identify and crack down on nuisance businesses that threaten public health. Her order was part of an initiative aimed at curbing last year’s violent crime.

Brown said last week he planned to meet with the club’s attorneys this week to try negotiating a solution. He said the owners are aware of the noise problem and are working to fix it.

“I stand by the community. I recognize our businesses in the communities. But I also understand that we can’t have businesses being a nuisance in neighborhoods,” Brown said. “Nor can we have folks living in communities where they don’t feel safe, and they can’t sleep at night. And the club owner recognizes that.”

“It is an eyesore. It is too close to people’s homes. It just looks out of place,” said Ade. “The look, the vibe of it, it doesn’t match this neighborhood and I don’t understand how this happened.

Credit: Matt Bruce

Credit: Matt Bruce