DeKalb County commissioners decided Tuesday they want more time to study crime data before deciding whether bars should be prohibited from serving alcohol after 2 a.m.
Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson proposed deferring the vote for a week, saying she wanted information about how the current 4 a.m. closing time affects crime in unincorporated DeKalb.
“I just feel like maybe one size does not fit all,” she said. “Until we see exactly where the problems are coming from and until we see the exact crime statistics in DeKalb County — not in one district — then we can make a better-informed decision.”
Commissioners voted unanimously to delay a decision for one week. That came after a public hearing attended by dozens of bar owners and employees who oppose changing the law, as well as homeowners who believe the status quo puts public safety at risk.
Arnie Oxman, the owner of O’Riley’s Food & Spirits on Covington Highway, said his club has never been an issue for law enforcement and asked the commissioners to work with bar owners to find a solution that everyone can live with.
“It is important to all parties that there not be any unintended consequences to the DeKalb County resident, the late-night establishments who operate within the law, employees who make a living from their jobs in these establishments, and the property owners who pay taxes and don’t want to see their taxes go up,” he said.
Commissioner Jeff Rader supported deferring a vote but indicated that he was in favor of the change. He noted earlier bar closing times exist in the city of Atlanta, as well as many other municipalities and counties in the metro area.
“What we’re trying to do today is to move forward with a very straight-forward, common-sense legislation that is consistent with serving hours across this region,” he said. “DeKalb County is currently an outlier.”
The issue is a matter of quality of life and reducing the potential for crime, said Mary Hinkel, representing herself and other homeowners in the Mason Mill Civic Association.
“Residents of central unincorporated DeKalb are fearful that commercial areas near them will become home to more late-night establishments or already existing establishments will become more crowded,” she said, “laying the foundation for increased violence and disruption to our residents.”