Pool hall owner pleads guilty to bribing DeKalb official

Ismail Sirdah didn’t mind paying extra to get a break for his billiards parlor. Now he can plead for a break from a judge.

The owner of a late-night pool hall pleaded guilty Thursday to bribing a DeKalb County zoning official to secure a variance for Lulu Billiards in Tucker.

“Zoning rules exist to protect neighborhoods from businesses and establishments that might disrupt the residential aspect of our communities,” said acting U.S. Attorney John Horn. “This case illustrates how greed and cash payments can sell out the legitimate interests of our citizens.”

Sirdah, 53, of Duluth, was trying to circumvent a 2008 zoning law regulating late-night establishments that required a special permit for nightclubs or late-night businesses. While Lulu’s was grandfathered in as a late-night pool hall, DeKalb officials told Sirdah in November 2011 that his establishment — which had a dance floor — was violating the law by acting as a nightclub.

In response, Sirdah argued his pool hall had been operating as a nightclub before 2008 and was therefore grandfathered in as an existing nightclub under the law and petitioned the Zoning Board of Appeals to rule the county was in error.

To increase his chances of prevailing, Sirdah met with board member Jeremy “Jerry” Clark and promised to reward him if the board approved Sirdah’s petition, Horn said.

In November 2012, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved Sirdah’s nightclub and Sirdah paid Clark $2,000 and donated $1,500 to a nonprofit with which Clark was involved, Horn said.

Clark, 42, of Lithonia, pleaded guilty on Feb. 19 to accepting a bribe from Sirdah. Clark is scheduled to be sentenced on April 30 at 10 a.m. before U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May.

May is scheduled to sentence Sirdah on June 15 at 11 a.m.