ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta wants a judge to temporarily restrain the owners of Encore Hookah Bar & Bistro from using the property, as well as declare the property a public nuisance.
In the complaint filed on March 16, the City states Atlanta Police were called to the property 171 times in two years due to "homicides, persons shot, larceny from vehicles, disorderly conduct, and aggravated assault."
The first example the complaint laid out, is the February 2, 2022 killing of security guard Ty Ross.
Ross' girlfriend Aaliyah Strong worked at Encore with him and was there the night Ty was shot.
Strong no longer works at Encore.
"As soon as it happened, I just never went back. Literally, that day was my last day," she said.
Strong has called out her former employer, for not properly addressing her boyfriend's murder as well as other acts of violence. In the time she worked at Encore, Strong said she'd often hear about shootings outside the bar and be fearful to leave work after her shift.
"Fights, guns in the club, people sneaking guns in the club, guns over the patio, all of that. People shouldn't have to go to work or go out to have a good time and worry about if they're going to make it home or not," she said. "Ty losing his life should really be an eye-opener for everybody. And it's just unfortunate that it took all of this for the city to finally get on it."
In the complaint, the City states its "exhausted the resources of its employees, the Atlanta Police Department, the City Solicitor’s Office, the Atlanta Police Department License and Permits Division, and the Atlanta Police Department Code Enforcement Division in attempting to resolve this matter."
Family, friends remember Ty Ross
Several specific crimes are detailed in the complaint, including an October 25, 2021 shooting of an off-duty police officer working as a parking attendant. The officer was shot in the face, returned fire and killed the man who shot him.
Another homicide includes the January 7, 2021 death of Deandre Houston, who was found with a gunshot wound to his chest.
Police said Houston was headed to his car to charge his phone, when the suspects allegedly approached him in a stolen Nissan, shot him, and left.
The complaint states employees of the nearby Hyatt Place Atlanta Centennial Park hotel fear for their lives, and private security guards at the hotel are armed and required to wear body armor for their safety.
One of the shootings detailed in the complaint includes the night of September 17, 2021 when a man was shot three times after getting into a fight inside the bar.
"As security escorted the victim to the parking lot, the suspect fired shots, injuring the victim. The security guard returned fire," the complaint reads.
As a result of that shooting, several bullets penetrated the nearby Georgia Aquarium, causing damage to the dolphin habitat. Five dolphins were removed in order for a dive team to clean out glass. Six months later, another shooting resulted in bullets once against shattering glass at the aquarium.
Besides the owner and manager of the bar, the property manager, Habif Properties, LLC, is listed as one of the defendants.
After the death of Ross, the company told 11Alive the "tenant agreed to immediate changes to its business practices to ensure public safety and agreed to vacate the property by December 23, 2021."
Habif Properties said they later filed for eviction when the tenant did not leave in December and is waiting for a hearing.
In response to the recent complaint, the company sent a second statement:
"We are aware of the motion for a Temporary Restraining Order brought by the City of Atlanta against Encore Lounge, which is occupying this property as a holdover tenant. We are continuing our legal efforts to evict Encore Lounge from the property and will fully comply with the City of Atlanta in our shared goal of removing this tenant as soon as permitted by law."
Strong believes the location of the bar and the massive amount of people who frequent Encore consistently leads to an unsafe environment.
"They don't have the proper security teams to handle it all. Encore gets really, really busy," she explained. "If they do decide to reopen or open up somewhere else, I just hope that they'll implement certain things to prevent it from being a repeat of Encore, basically."
You can read the full complaint below.