Rapper Killer Mike joined local nightclub owners Monday to speak out against a proposed change to Atlanta’s laws that would allow the city to temporarily shut down businesses deemed a “nuisance.”
The City Council’s public safety committee later voted to hold the measure, which would add closure to the possible punishments for nuisance establishments, which can include bars and clubs. The council plans to hold a work session on the issue before advancing any legislation.
Introduced last week with the support of Mayor Andre Dickens and much of the City Council, the ordinance would allow a municipal court judge to force a business to close for up to up to a year if it is ruled to be a nuisance due to repeated crime and code violations. Residents and officials have long complained that it takes too long for the city to take action against unruly establishments.
Killer Mike, whose real name is Michael Render, spoke during the public comment period at City Hall, saying the proposal could unfairly and disproportionately impact small, Black-owned businesses, including clubs that help put the city on the international stage through pioneering hip-hop, rap and R&B trends.
“I’m not here as a rapper who wants his way. I’m here as a small and local businessman saying we can figure out a better way than this punitive display,” Render said.
He and other local advocates said the city should do more to support bars and clubs by providing additional security assistance and police patrols. Render, an activist who also owns several barbershops in metro Atlanta and hosts an interview talk show, pointed out that some non-nightlife establishments, like Lenox Mall, have seen violent crime in the last few years and aren’t deemed nuisances.
“I don’t want us to cut off our arm when all that needs to be amputated is our pinky,” he said.
The city’s newly created nightlife division, and its newly hired nightlife manager, aims to address some of the concerns raised Monday. The new division seeks to provide resources, education and training to bar and club owners, several of whom have pushed for more police patrols.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Councilman Dustin Hillis, a sponsor of the legislation, said it takes multiple incidents and code violations before a business is even brought before the court on a nuisance case. The nuisance ordinance also applies to all properties in the city, not just bars and clubs.
“You have to be convicted in a court of law to get shut down,” Hillis said.
The city’s list of nuisance properties started with 25 places and has grown to 70, Deputy City Solicitor Erika Smith said Monday.
But not all of those get brought to court and officially ruled a nuisance. Municipal Court data shows that since 2019, 17 nuisance cases — seven involving bars or clubs — were filed. Smith said the city’s nuisance efforts have led six bars or clubs in the city to close their doors.
“These are not isolated incidents,” she said. “At every last one of these establishments there was a homicide.”
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