Hapeville sign is embarrassment for city, bold move for business owner

Joshua Patton and his wife Telyncia Patton (TAMMY JOYNER / tjoyner@ajc.com)

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Joshua Patton and his wife Telyncia Patton (TAMMY JOYNER / tjoyner@ajc.com)

For Hapeville City officials, it's a 4-by-8 foot embarassment that refuses to go away. But businessman Joshua McArthur Patton says the 4-by-8 foot sign he erected in front of his nightclub eatery earlier this year is his way of bringing attention to his inability to get a liquor license because he says he catered mostly to African-Americans.

The sign, which sits across the railroad tracks from the International Automaker Porsche’s test-driving complex, says the mayor and council “don’t want blacks” in the city. It’s a jarring monument for motorist traveling along North Central Avenue where Patton’s club is sandwiched ironically between two liquor stores. The $350 sign has drawn local media and international attention and gawkers who come almost daily to take pictures.

The nightclub is a 13,000 square foot brick facility built to look like a Castle. It drew rappers such as Young Jeezy and TV personalities from “The Housewives of Atlanta.”

Patton, 64, is a former Marine who said he was once a bodyguard to Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris. He said the city, and more recently a Fulton County Superior Court judge, denied him a liquor license for his business and he is weighing his options, including possibly suing the city. He said he was open for just two months in 2015 before closing.

“I’ve never caused the city of Hapeville no problems,” he said.

Patton has been in Hapeville since 1994 when he opened a pool hall that drew workers from the nearby Ford Motor Plant, now home to Porsche. That venture later grew into nightclub business. Patton estimates he’s spent “tens of thousands of dollars” in building permits to construct the facility and about $3.5 million in all developing his 10-acre property. He said his efforts have met with repeated threats from various city officials over the years, saying ‘we don’t want your kind here .”

But city officials insist they are good stewards of their city of about 6,800, at the edge of Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. City Manager William Whitson said the “health, safety and community would not be well-served” if the city had granted Patton a liquor license. He said there were concerns about safety.

Whitson also disputed Patton’s claims of racial prejudice saying the city has a diverse population. He also said its not the city’s attempt to try to get the site away from Patton because of its prime location to Porsche.

“This gentleman was trying to embarrass the city into giving him an alcohol license,” Whitson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday. “It’s unfortunate Mr. Patton has chosen to exercise his First Amendment rights in this distasteful way. But we respect his right do so.”

The sign lists the names of 18 people, including Whitson, the Mayor and city council and other elected leaders.

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