ATLANTA -- Business owners in the popular Edgewood Avenue bar district met with city officials Friday with an eye on curbing an unruly street party that breaks out there after midnight each weekend. Each side is looking to the other to pitch in to a problem that, officials say, now risks violence. Two people were injured when a gunman fired shots on Edgewood last weekend.
Police are making some subtle enforcement changes this weekend. They're enforcing an ordinance that outlaws parking on both sides of Edgewood on its busiest two blocks. And they expect to step up enforcement of the city's noise ordinance, aimed at folks who bring amplified music to the streetscape.
Business owners and city officials agree that they need more law enforcement resources – but aren’t sure how to pay for them.
Two blocks of Edgewood Avenue now draws thousands of visitors in the wee hours of every weekend. "These are not people who are coming into bars," said Johnny Martinez, owner of a bar called Joystick. "And a lot of them are underage and that’s troubling too."
Bar owners say they’ve asked the city for three years to enhance its law enforcement presence on Edgewood. Yet the crowds, especially in summer, have only grown.
"We don’t want to be the Buckhead of the 90s," Martinez said, referring to the raucous bar district that mostly shut down early in the 2000s. "We don’t even want to be the Buckhead of now.
To that end, business and law enforcement officers met for an hour at midday Friday to figure out how to attack the problem – and who will pay for how much enhanced security.
Earlier this week, Councilman Kwanza Hall characterized the city's police presence in a remark to 11Alive News that enraged bar owners: "Free security, for people who are making millions of dollars,” Hall said as part of a longer interview. See that story here.
Hall said Friday he meant only that Edgewood's bar owners have to contribute a fair share for security outside their doorsteps.
"The big idea is that we’re all stakeholders in this and and if we work on it together, we can figure it out," Hall said before Friday's meeting.
"The truth is, we’ve all contributed," said Joe Stewardson of the Old Fourth Ward Business Association. "We’ve contributed in various ways including hiring off duty officers. That’s been going on for years." He also noted that "a liquor license, by itself is a $5000 ticket to punch every year. So we feel like we are paying for security in a lot of ways."
Martinez echoed that. "We feel like we’re already doing that, and are happy to do more."
Hall and bar owners said the meeting resulted in a general agreement to find ways to pay for stepped up law enforcement on Edgewood.