DeKalb tells bars and nightclubs they must close earlier

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DeKalb tells bars and nightclubs they must close earlier

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Chief of Police James Conroy stands before commissioners during DeKalb County Commission meeting last week. Commissioners asked county police to compile crime statistics surrounding late-night bars before reducing their hours. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Less late-night partying will be going on in unincorporated DeKalb County after the new year.

Starting Jan. 1, bars are prohibited from serving alcohol after 2 a.m. from Sunday through Wednesday and after 2:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Under current law, liquor can be served until 3:55 a.m. every night.

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DeKalb commissioners said they need the police chief to give them crime stats.

Homeowners and community associations pushed for the changes, arguing that late night establishments attract crime, noise and drunk driving.

“These proprietors do work hard, but they can’t control how their customers are going to be,” Sagamore Hills resident Rene Kane said during public comment before Tuesday’s vote.

Commissioners did approve a slight change from the original version of the ordinance to allow another half-hour of alcohol sales during weekends. It was a compromise intended to assuage bar owners and employees who opposed limits to their hours of operation.

“We’ve heard legitimate concerns on every side of this issue,” Commissioner Jeff Rader said.

Bars will be required to close 30 minutes after last call.

Commissioners approved the changes unanimously, although not without a hiccup. Shortly before the vote, a power surge caused the sound and electronic voting systems to fail. Instead, commissioners raised their hands to show their support for the ordinance.

Already, the alcohol sales vote had been pushed back one week while commissioners waited for crime data from DeKalb Police. The resulting report showed no widespread issues at bars open during the wee hours.

In an analysis of 65 locations in unincorporated DeKalb classified as either “late night establishments” or night clubs, 212 criminal offenses were reported from Dec. 5, 2016, through Dec. 5, 2017, between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. About half of those were instances of property damage or theft.

“These crimes are not unique to late night establishments or night clubs and are seen just as frequently at malls and shopping centers,” DeKalb Police Chief James Conroy wrote in a memo to commissioners. “The vast majority of locations have crime that is consistent with other businesses in their area.”

Several of the locations analyzed had no crime reports during the time frame, and 30 had only one or two offenses, Conroy wrote. There were 101 reports of violence, drugs or people behaving badly while intoxicated.

Conroy’s memo also noted that 41 percent of the 212 offenses could be attributed to just three places: The Cave on Covington Drive, The Cigar Bar on Panola Road and Dudley’s on Millwood Lane.

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