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Atlanta ‘nightlife division’ raises questions for some local businesses

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 7:19 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - From shootings to fighting, metro Atlanta nightlife bars and restaurants have often become crime scenes, so the mayor is launching an initiative to help curb the violence. But some businesses worry the responsibility to tackle crime could fall disproportionately on them.

“Our businesses are victims of the public safety issues,” said Darryl Johnson.

Across Atlanta, Edgewood is known for the events and entertainment it offers. Lately, it’s gotten even more attention for its shootings, and several recent ones turned deadly.

But ask Johnson, the Old Fourth Ward Business Executive Director, restaurants and bars are often blamed for the very violence they say is also harming them. Something he explained isn’t always fair.

“You can’t really control what happens outside of your doors.” Johnson continued, “There’s plenty of instances right now that are occurring with people who are fools with guns.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced Monday in his State of the City address that the city is creating a nightlife division. Its a program to train bars, clubs, and restaurant workers to de-escalate fights, administer fight aid, and respond to emergencies.

But owners within the Old Fourth Ward Business Association are concerned the new initiative may place the responsibility on them to deter crime.

Atlanta Police Chief Anthony Bryant addressed that concern, telling CBS46, " This is not a matter of us blaming responsibility-- putting responsibility on an individual.”

Adding, “what this is, is our ability to educate them and for all of us to have a level of responsibility in public safety.”

The chief noted the city will ensure public input before the new plan is in effect.

“It really does take going to the businesses, listening to what their concerns are, listening to how they need certain resources, listening to the problems they are having, and then executing a plan,” Johnson said.

The Old Fourth Ward Business Association confirmed it’s working on its own initiative called Pledge to Safety. It involves locations committing to resources like increased surveillance, security staffing, and changing entry standards at some spots.