Atlanta seeks to close Buckhead nightclub after deadly shooting

2 killed, 4 injured at Elleven45 Lounge earlier this month
The city of Atlanta is seeking to close the Elleven45 Lounge in Buckhead. John Spink /

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

The city of Atlanta is seeking to close the Elleven45 Lounge in Buckhead. John Spink /

Atlanta city officials are looking to shut down the Elleven45 Lounge, two weeks after a shooting at the Buckhead nightclub left two people dead and four others injured.

Gunfire erupted May 12 at the popular club on Peachtree Road, killing 21-year-old Mari Creighton, a Stockbridge High graduate and volleyball player at Albany State University, and 20-year-old Nakyris M. Ridley, who police said was the intended target. Four other bystanders were also struck, but they survived.

According to a complaint filed Friday, the city is asking the courts to shut down the club, saying it is being mismanaged and deeming it a nuisance following several acts of violence in recent years.

“Respondents have failed to take responsibility or corrective actions necessary to make use of the property safe, and thus city of Atlanta is forced to act,” the lawsuit stated.

Buckhead residents had already petitioned the city to shutter the club, which they considered “irresponsibly owned” following claims of an increase in crime there. There were five shootings at the club between September 2019 and August 2020 that resulted in four deaths, residents noted at the time.

Since then, the complaint stated that Atlanta police have received at least 12 calls for service at the club, including shootings, stabbings, fights, larceny and disorderly conduct. After officers responded to shots fired at the club in August 2020, they found a man holding an AR-15 rifle with another gun in his pocket. He argued he was protecting himself from gunfire that witnesses said came from the parking lot of a Fresh Market across the street. The lawsuit said the shots were fired at a vehicle carrying a rapper who was supposed to appear at the club.

Separate stabbings were reported at the club in February 2021 and April 2021. Then in September 2023, a police officer was punched by a group of unruly men who had been kicked out of the club, the complaint stated. Two months later, a man was shot through a car’s rear driver’s-side window in the parking lot.

The most serious incident happened earlier this month, when police said a fight inside the club escalated into gunfire, leaving Creighton and Ridley dead at the scene. Ridley, who had a myriad of previous arrests in Fulton County, was shot several times, while the others were each struck once, an incident report stated.

At the time, Atlanta police Chief Darin Schierbaum said the suspect had been identified, but no arrests have been made in the case.

Creighton was a rising college senior focused on earning a biology degree and was celebrating the birthday of her 22-year-old niece when she was shot, Channel 2 Action News reported. Her funeral was held Saturday at Community Church of God in Macon, according to her obituary. A GoFundMe page created to help the family with expenses had raised more than $2,300 as of Tuesday afternoon.

“Mari was just an all-around great young lady that will truly be missed,” John Holladay, her volleyball coach at Stockbridge, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Albany State University student Mari Creighton, 21, was among two people killed in a shooting May 12 at a Buckhead nightclub, police said. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

Just days after her killing reignited community concerns about security, the city said it had launched an investigation into the nightclub. A spokesperson for Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens stated they were looking into several matters involving the property and would be “working with the appropriate departments and agencies to take any necessary action.” To keep the community safe, they would not hesitate to use “several tools at the mayor’s disposal,” the statement added.

According to the complaint, which was filed about a week later, Ahmed Uwhubetine and Djibril Dafe jointly operate the nightclub and had failed “to provide for adequate security and safeguards to protect its patrons and those within the vicinity from harm.” The AJC has attempted to reach the club’s owners by phone since the shooting but has been unsuccessful. The other defendants named in the lawsuit were Elleven45 Lounge, LLC; Sovereign Entertainment, Inc.; Bennett Street Properties LP; and Wilmington Trust, National Association.

By allowing guns on the property, the city argued Elleven45 Lounge was a safety hazard and would continue to pose a danger to the public.

“The harm to (the city) and the public is dire since people have died and others have been shot, shot at or stabbed,” the city said in case filings.

Documents obtained through Georgia’s open records law show the city has alleged some code violations against Elleven45 over the past several years. In November, a citation issued against the club alleges violations of the city’s building and zoning codes. Specifically, the citation says the property owners failed to comply with a “stop work” order on the site and did construction or alterations before obtaining all required permits.

As of last Wednesday, the city was still seeking to serve the citation because the club’s owner refused to meet with an inspector to receive it, officials said.

In April 2018, Atlanta police’s Code Enforcement Section issued a notice accusing Elleven45 of violating the city’s housing code after an inspection turned up “junk, trash and debris on premises.” Another notice in October 2020 found “excessive weathering of exterior surfaces or peeling paint.”

Elleven45 has been licensed by the state to sell alcohol since at least the start of 2016 and has no violations on file with the Georgia Department of Revenue. Both its business and alcohol licenses are active and do not expire until the end of 2024, online records show.

Last week, an attorney hired to represent the Creighton family said his firm expected to file a lawsuit against the club within the next couple of weeks.

The city’s complaint against Elleven45 isn’t rare. Last month, the city filed a similar lawsuit against Girls Galore, Inc., which operates the Allure Gentlemen’s Club, for failing to protect its patrons and the surrounding Cheshire Bridge Road community. The city sought the closure of that club for repeated violence over the past several years.

“The City of Atlanta is authorized to close the structure on the property and secure the premises so that it cannot be used in connection with the commission of illegal activity,” the Girls Galore complaint stated.

The city’s complaint stated that shutting down Elleven45 was necessary because the “city and the public will suffer and will continue to suffer until final judgment is entered in this dispute.”

Those representing the nightclub will have a chance to answer the allegations and the city’s request to temporarily close it while the case is being litigated.

— AJC staff writer Reed Williams contributed to this article.