EAST ATLANTA — After complaints of alleged illegal activity, Atlanta police officers went to the Asylum Restaurant & Lounge early Wednesday morning, seized the establishment's alcohol and arrested the manager, Couri Antonio Williams.
Williams is charged with operating a business ouside allowed hours of operation, selling alcohol without a license, not having a business license, storing alcohol without a license and failure to display a license.
Williams, who, according to his Facebook page, lives in Lithonia, is no stranger to the criminal justice system.
In 2004, he pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon and no contest on a marijuana possesion charge. He was arrested on other charges in 2003 and 2011, according to DeKalb County records.
The action, which occurred at about 7:15 a.m., follows months of grievances lodged against the bar at 543/551 Flat Shoals Ave. SE.
And it follows what apparently had been an ongoing investigation into the operations of the bar, which may have been operating illegally since it lacks a city liquor license.
There also is an ongoing question about its ability to sell hard liquor and have live entertainment within 300 feet of a house.
Brian Michael Sawyer, an owner in Asylum, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday.
But Sawyer, who, according to Project Q Atlanta has a history of woes in his past ventures, told the magazine he didn't know about the police action or the arrest.
"I have no idea. I am in Nashville," the magazine quotes him as saying. "I have no clue what anybody is talking about. I am visiting my mother.
"What really chaps my ass is this (explative) over this crap continuing," Sawyer continued, as he threatened legal action against the publication.
The tipping point for Asylum may have come this weekend, though. The Asylum manager approached a group of people on the patio of the Midway Pub across the street at about 1:45 a.m. Sunday inviting them to an illegal, $10 all-you-could-drink party at 3 a.m.
Among the people at the table he approached: Stephanie Ramage, the citizens' advocate at Atlanta City Hall and an off-duty Atlanta Police Department officer.
From that police officer's report:
"We were approached by a black malewho stated that the club across the street from our location (Asylum) was having a birthday party starting at 0300HRS. The male stated that it was $10 to get in and free beer. When the male was leaving the location, he stated again the party was starting around 02:30 but would really be rollin' around 4."
The weekend incident underscores what neighborhood leaders have said is Asylum's continued flouting of local laws.
"I hope that the owners and management of the Asylum will be held fully accountable for what appear to be deliberate and egregious violations of a number of city laws," Ronald Lall, public safety chairman of Neighborhood Planning Unit - W, told East Atlanta Patch, Wedenesday.
"We will be encouraging the City Solicitor to make an example of these individuals by seeking the maximum penalties for their long list of alleged violations, when the case is presented."
Since the beginning, the bar, Lall said, has fought the neighborhood on hard liquor sales and having live entertainment within 300 feet of a house.
"They continued to say that they believed there's some other measurement. They've been obstinate in their belief that they can interpret the ordinance better than the police department can interpret the ordinance," Lall said.
"I think most residents understand that starting and running a business is filled with challenges, however, I will be very surprised if anyone in the community thinks that it is acceptable to blatantly disregard the rules the way that Asylum owners and managers allegedly decided to.
"Naming your business Asylum does not, and should not, grant you immunity from the laws that business owners and operators are required to abide by."
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