UPDATED: Judge Orders City to Approve Kirkwood Bar & Grill's Liquor License

City has 10 days from July 2 to give license.

A Fulton County Superior Court Judge overturned Mayor Kasim Reed's to a Kirkwood bar owner on Monday.

Judge John J. Goger's order requires the city grant the Kirkwood Bar & Grill and its owner, David Johnson, the license no later than July 12.

"The judge ruled there was no evidence to deny him the license," Johnson's attorney, Alan I. Begner, told East Atlanta Patch Monday. "I’m happy and so is David."

A spokeswoman for Reed said the city is studying how it will respond.

"The City will carefully review Judge Goger's order when it is entered and will then determine the appropriate next steps," Sonji Jacobs Dade told Patch.

The bar had been dark for several days, fueling speculation that it closed. Begner said it proved difficult to operate a sports bar, without having the ability to sell liquor.

The ruling is the latest in the long-running row between the Kirkwood neighborhood and Johnson over bar at 1963 Hosea L. Williams Dr.

Johnson's bar is an anchor business of the Kirkwood Station retail and residential complex.

But residential neighbors and fellow business owners in the complex have complained Johnson fails to abide by the rules that govern Kirkwood Station, by staying open later than allowed, placing signs in the right-of-way or illegally parking his vehicle.

They also object to the tinted and reflective glass — which doesn't allow a view of what's going on inside — in violation of city codes regulating Kirkwood's commercial district.

The reflective tint also violates the bylaws that govern Kirkwood Station, neighbors say.

Johnson, whio is black, has said the dispute between him and his neighbors stems from race and that there is a vocal minority of people in Kirkwood who oppose him because it.

It's a charge many in the neighborhood .

The judge's order comes amidst a citywide .

Bar owners complain the process is too cumbersome; neighhood leaders say their input isn't given enough weight.

"I understand that neighborhoods have a right to be part of the analysis and they have the right to oppose an application," Begner said. "But with the neighbohood planning units, some of them have an enhanced view of the rules by which they should participate."

Begner said he hopes the two sides in Kirkwood can come together for the betterment of the neighborhood.

"I told him when he gets his license, he's going to have to be a good neighbor," Begner said. "He’s going to have to get invoved and convince him that they should welcome him instead of fighting him."

Kirkwood Resident July 03, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Uh ok. How about we live here and have no issue with all the other minority owned businesses? Johnson's business was based on a nightclub type atmosphere. Kirkwood also has club esso. Difference is location. Don't open a club in a condo mixed use retail location with two for one drink specials, booty nights, ladies free before midnight, cover charges, and bouncers. That's not a sports bar. That's a club. Plus add mirror tint. This is not about race, as easy of a lame argument as you would like to make it out to be. Unfortunately people are trying to make it that way because then you don't have to argue facts, just emotion.
J darne July 03, 2012 at 01:09 AM
K Marie. Since you are probably not aware of the whole back story. There is no racial undertone and if it seems that way from previous articles it has been all in part by Mr.Johnson. The Kirkwood community reached out to him when he first opened. He was invited to meetings and invited to take part in community activities all of which he declined. What happened to Kirkwood Bar & Grill is all by the hand of Mr.Johnson. The last 2 health scores were first in the 70's with a period to fix any deficiencies. His next score was in the 60's. No one but management and the owner is to blame for low health scores. I wish people would look at the real facts instead of reading some articles that may seem partial to one side or the other. In the case of KB&G the facts are clear and Mr.Johnson needs to take full responsibility for all of his actions. Somehow I don't think he ever will.
Chris H July 03, 2012 at 03:13 AM
The Pullman bar opened up across the street and there are no complaints about this place. They show what a good neighborhood bar is supposed to be like.
J in EAV July 03, 2012 at 04:01 AM
I hope it works out or ends quick if it doesn't. I'm getting a bad vibe. Unfirtunately, I'm usually right and someone gets hurt.
morgifer July 03, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Why are we even wasting time arguing about this foolishness? Really...how long do you think this lame-assed, anachronistic, and just plain TIRED small time operation is going to last without the good will of the surrounding community? I give this juke joint less than a year from today to peter out. Now let's get focused on attracting a tenant that gets the good neighbor piece for the next go 'round.
L Will July 03, 2012 at 02:06 PM
yeah, me too.
Ormewood Park Mom July 03, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Vote NO on TSPLOST. That, like this bar, is a scam too!
Whatstheproblemwithyou. July 03, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Wow! Pure and utter vitriol. Interesting that none of you haters appear to have any concern as to why the superior court reversed the mayor's decision. While the mayor clearly heard the community concerns with his decision, the court reminded us all that there is nothing more important than the law. Unless you believe the owner of this place is also influencing the court, then figure out how to deal with him or move somewhere else. It's nothing but the law, baby! The law!
Nona Yerbus July 03, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Move somewhere else?????? How dense are you??? People that move to kIrkwood are not racially intolerant, they are prbably more inclusive than anybody you'd find in that guy that owns the place neighborhood. His business does not show any respect for the neigbhborhood he wants his business to be in. I believe that is called a pain in the butt.
CeeJay July 03, 2012 at 11:35 PM
"Closing Kirkwood Bar and Grill is not about race.” If you say so. But if it’s not about race—it’s about something else; gentrification. Let’s be clear. "Kirkwood Station" is NOT “the Kirkwood Community" and Kirkwood Station’s inhabitants are not reflective of the Kirkwood Community at large, nor are the immediate residents of “downtown” Kirkwood for that matter. Unfortunately for Kirkwood Bar and Grill, the racial demographic (do your homework on this) which overwhelmingly makes up the “Kirkwood Community” will not be reading this news story, much less, leaving a comment. But trust me; they do NOT have a problem with Kirkwood Bar & Grill. I hate to burst your bubble “Close Kirkwood Bar”-ers, but your personal taste is not the standard by which all Sports Bars are measured. “One drink specials’, ‘ladies free before midnight,’ ‘cover charges’, and ‘bouncers” may not be what you’re used to, but it is certainly common-place at many African-American BARS throughout the U.S. as well as on “Hip-Hop” nights at many conventional BARS everywhere. More directly—YOUR sports bar experience is not OUR sports bar experience and you, the vocal minority will soon realize that the silent majority that makes up the real Kirkwood Community supports Kirkwood Bar and Grill and will show that support with their dollars. We are elated that they have been vindicated by the rule of law and now looking forward to that drink…
rk July 04, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Here's the thing - I could care less that it is a sports bar. The problem is that this owner lied to the residents of Kirkwood about the type of place he was opening, has broken tons of rules of the condo association (people bought homes there under the pretense that businesses would operate within the confines of the rules), criminal complaints went up, and he slammed the community over and over. Feel free to operate an establishment like that elsewhere - there are plenty of places in Kirkwood he could locate where you won't have to have your dj blasting music while a toddler attempts to sleep on the other side of the wall in his home.While Kirkwood Station isn't representative of all of Kirkwood, how would you feel if I opened a bar that specialized in say, bagpipe playing opened next to you, played music late into the night, and the response was "too bad, move. other people like going there for a few hours from time to time"? And yes, my husband has patronized the place before the owner's vile behavior got out of control.
mrskwd July 04, 2012 at 02:27 PM
MANY neighbors in Kirkwood immediately started going there upon his opening, only to find his lies run rampant - beginning with "family friendly menu" "don't believe everything you read in the Atlanta Business Chronicle" when asked about an article on him opening a CLUB; lying to the HOA board about his hours - rules state businesses must close by 11pm due to this is a mixed use retail and residential complex; nor has he paid rent to his landlord, or HOA dues since last July. I don't see where any of this is racially related. If you do your homework you will note that several Kirkwood businesses are owned and successfully operated by minority business owners and are frequented by Kirkwood neighbors - of which I am one.
mrskwd July 04, 2012 at 02:31 PM
What about the law Johnson violated with window tinting; what about the law Johnson violated when he lied on his liquor license application and to the review board; what about the violations Johnson has made against the HOA Rules and Bylaws (although not city, state or county law - he had complete disregard for any of them, and lied about knowing about them). The law baby, the law!
mrskwd July 04, 2012 at 02:35 PM
I haven't seen your dollars of support for his catfish sandwich specials, wings specials, and other food related specials - Oh wait, is it because he got a 68 on his health inspection? I wouldn't eat there either - alcohol or no alcohol. And yes, a restaurant can survive without an alcohol permit - the local pizza joint has been BYOB for 5 years and is awesome. Good luck with that food poisoning - thankfully AFR is a block away and has great EMS guys on shift!
Kirkwood Resident July 04, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Hold up. So what about all the other minority owned businesses in kirkwood? Morrisons lounge, club esso, petit marchet, spades now a seafood place, a dance studio, Ann's snack shack, Wyatt's BBQ, langfords, and many others. These are part of the community as well. I don't see people working to shut them down. East Atlanta is fighting something similar with asylum bar. Are they racist? By the way, two for one drink specials are illegal and he advertised these on flyers all throughout kirkwood and in his restaurant. Regarding your argument of just move or deal with it, I would not want a white frat boy drink fest with dj music and half dressed women with bouncers and cover charges in the condo building retail in kirkwood either.
CeeJay July 04, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Have you ever heard of a business plan? Its a BAR and grill--ot a pizza joint (althought their barbeque pizza is incredible). Do you know what "margins" are? Or how about a business plan? Revenue from the bar is necessary for ANY BAR and grill to be successful and remain open. Interestingly enough though (and to your point), Kirkwood Bar & Grill has SUCCESSFULLY remained open in despite the ilegal denial of an alcohol permit by the Mayor. I do love how you guys keep moving the goal-post in this argument though--I'm sure name-calling is just around the corner. And we both know you have no idea what his health inspection score is, but nice try...
CeeJay July 04, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Lied to the residents of Kirkwood? Your broad statements, I think, are representative of your elitist perspective. Which residents of Kirkwood has the owner lied to? Those at Bixby Court Apartments? Campbell Street residents? Do you even know where in Kirkwood these places are? You and others like you--please stop claiming to speak on behalf of “Kirkwood residents.” As I said in my initial post—you guys represent a VERY SMALL percentage of the inhabitants of Kirkwood. You are speaking on behalf of “Kirkwood Station,” and/or “downtown” Kirkwood. Please make sure to articulate that, going forward.
CeeJay July 04, 2012 at 05:45 PM
In response to your other question; “If you opened a bar that "specialized in bagpipe playing" next to my home, where my toddler slept,” that would no doubt suck for me and my toddler and I would not like your being there. But if I bought or rented a property which was next to a vacant or already occupied Bar, I would have to take ownership in this decision. And if I moved into an area of the city that was 70% + Irish, I would be fully prepared to deal with the Irish culture that now surrounded me or might, in the future--including potential occupancy of the vacant bar property next to the unit I purchased. I (since you asked) would not be willing to take the risk of moving next to a commercial property of any kind because I have no say (or limited say) in what business will occupy the space next to where my “toddler” lays his head. If I could not be happy there, I would rent my property and find another place to live and if I rented the property, I would find another place to live immediately.
Nick M July 04, 2012 at 06:31 PM
CeeJay, Please do yourself a favor and do at least 10 minutes of research before posting such uninformed nonsense about this matter. They operated for months in an illegal manner in regards to liquor sales (drink specials), city codes (mirror tint), and they repeatedly violated their agreements with the HOA and residents of Kirkwood Station in regards to operating hours and noise violations. This is all well documented and not debatable. If they reopen, which looks doubtful at this point, (I've heard that they haven't paid any HOA dues in quite a while) they will have to abide by the agreement they signed with the HOA or the HOA can have them removed. That's really all there is to it.
Dana Blankenhorn July 05, 2012 at 08:05 PM
What is a Fulton County judge doing hearing a case in DeKalb County?
Dana Blankenhorn July 05, 2012 at 08:06 PM
How much is David Johnson paying you to troll for him? Or is CeeJay just a nom de Johnson?
Péralte Paul (Editor) July 05, 2012 at 08:20 PM
The liquor license is City of Atlanta so it falls under the jurisdiction of Fulton County Court, Dana.
whyohwhy July 05, 2012 at 11:19 PM
CeeJay-- I know all about Bixby Court Apartments, which by the way is renamed Kirkwood Apartments. That complex has an APD courtesy officer living there. Once the officer moved in 5 people moved out. What does that tell you? Everyone in Kikrwood REGARDLESS of race wants the community to be safe. This community is VERY diverse as well as the business owners. There are black, white, gay and straight business owners in Kirkwood. The difference between them and KB&G is that they abide by the law and did not lie before opening their business. Try to defend Mr. Johnson as much as you like, the fact is everything he has done is by his own word and hand. I am white and frequent all the businesses in Kirkwood. I could care less what color the owner is. I would not visit KB&G becuase I don't want to wind up in the hospital puking and pooping my guts out! There is NO excuse for the health department score that place received. Tell me a good reason for such low scores and I will listen CeeJay. HOA rules disreagrded, advertised drink specials, booty night. Call me crazy but I have never gone somwhere to eat dinner and vote on the roundness of someones tush. If Mr. Johnson had abided by the HOA rules, did what he said he would do upon opening his doors, Kirkwood would have supported him. As a previous post commented, CeeJay do your research. I think a lot of us know much more about what is truly going on.
Earl Williamson, RN July 06, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Any claims of a racial basis for neighborhood rejection of the application for an alcohol permit for Kirkwood Bar and Grill is pure B.S. Of 18 alcohol permits in NPU-O (Kirkwood, East Lake, and Edgewood) only three are held by whites and another three by corporations (Kroger, Publix, etc.). The remaining 12 are Black or Asian held. Of 10 alcohol permits in Kirkwood only two are white held. Kirkwood Bar and Grill failed because it served bad product, chose a business model inappropriate to it's location and contractual agreements, completely disrespected it's residential neighbors, reportedly stiffed it's landlord (and others), and failed to address community complaints and concerns (particularly related to public safety). Any business anywhere anytime operating in like fashion will fail.
kirkwood roots July 18, 2012 at 07:50 PM
This may be a moot point. The doors are chained and padlocked and there's a dispossessory (eviction) case against the owner for nonpayment. They reached an agreement where the first payment of $30,000 was due yesterday, with another $60k to be paid semi-monthly through October. It's Case number 12D23576 in the DeKalb Magistrate Court if anyone wants to follow along. Even if the liquor license materializes before then, with restaurant scores in the 60s it's going to be tough to pay back $90k in arrears in 3 months. They'd have to make a profit (not just revenue) of $1000/day...or have an angel investor.
Péralte Paul (Editor) July 18, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Thanks, kirkwood roots. I'll follow up and see what the deal is.
Stacey July 24, 2012 at 05:15 AM
A bit off topic but someone above posted "And yes, a restaurant can survive without an alcohol permit - the local pizza joint has been BYOB for 5 years and is awesome." Guess what? Not legal in City of Atlanta! 10-3(a) It shall be a violation of this chapter for any premises, that performs or undertakes any type of operation or activity for which a occupation tax certificate issued pursuant to Chapter 30 is required to be operated in a manner that allows any person to consume alcoholic beverages at such premises unless a license issued under this chapter allowing on premises consumption of alcoholic beverages has first been obtained. This prohibition shall apply without regard to whether the alcoholic beverages are provided free of charge as a part of any promotion by the owner of the premises or operator of the business, given as prizes in connection with any type of contests or raffles, given as bonuses or inducements offered in connection with the purchases of goods and/or services, brought onto the premises by other persons or otherwise made available. Any person employed by the business and who is present at the time when alcoholic beverages are being consumed at a non-licensed premises or location maybe charged with this offense." *********** (Code 1977, § 14-2003; Ord. No. 2004-68, § 3, 10-8-04; Ord. No. 2011-35(11-O-1137), § 2, 8-24-11)
Stacey July 24, 2012 at 05:29 AM
The above ordinance was passed rather quietly last year and helps to address inequities in the rules that businesses with alcohol licenses must follow vs non-licensees. It has helped mostly in reducing the number of parties in warehouse and other unlicensed venues. But this pizza place that is mentioned that allows BYOB is (in theory) allowing people to drink (very cheaply, by the way) on the premises, whereas a competing restaurant with an alcohol license has a tremendous amount of other fees and costs incurred to allow this. Can anyone see how this is not really fair to the business that has the license? [Disclosure: My spouse is the agent for 2 liquor licenses in the City of Atlanta.] Also, anyone who has to rely upon saying that having "2 for 1" or other drink specials is "illegal" may be technically correct but is grasping at straws. Even the Atlanta Alcohol Technical Advisory Group II is leaning towards recommending that the City change these laws because they are so broadly violated. Certainly there is some validity to having some type of law that prohibits extreme business practices which would encourage binge drinking, etc., but offering a special lower price on, for example, margaritas every Wednesday night should not be illegal. Get educated on this topic here: http://clatl.com/atlanta/unhappy-hour/Content?oid=1283676
Mark October 03, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Mark October 03, 2012 at 03:52 PM
The doors are back locked with.chains


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