Last call in Atlanta

January 5, 2004

The City of Atlanta recently pretended that they had the authority to tell bars that they had to stop serving alcohol by 2:30am and kick their customers out at 3:00am. Here is a letter I sent to the city council and mayor on the subject.

What are some good reasons to put people in jail? Robbery? Rape? Choosing the hours of operation for a business you own? Seriously - do you think a man should be put in jail for something like choosing to close his business at a particular time? That is exactly what you’re suggesting by telling bars when they must close.

When a person opens a bar, there are many questions to be answered. Will we have metal or wooden stools? Will we have 85 beers from around the world on tap, or just a few domestics? Will we have a jukebox, a DJ, or a band? Will we serve food? Will we allow smoking? Whom will we serve? When will we open and close? The only person who’s opinion matters in answering these questions is the bar’s owner. I would hope that the idea of the City Council dictating the type of music to be played to bar owners seems ridiculous. What you don’t seem to realize is that dictating hours of operation is equally ridiculous for the exact same reason. The City Council does not own any bars, and therefore, the City Council does not have a say in when any bar will open or close.

I understand that you have taken certain actions based on what you think is best for the community, but please do not allow yourself to become distracted by such concerns. It might be “good for the community” if the Chinese government gave $10,000 to everyone in Atlanta, so why hasn’t the city done that as well? Because you understand that it isn’t up to the city to dictate China’s spending. What you don’t seem to understand is that you have no more say in the operation of someone else’s business than you do in the spending policy of a foreign government. People on both sides of this issue have pleaded their case before city government because none of them seem to realize that it was never up to the city to begin with. If my friend has $1000 of disposable income, he can choose to take a class in a foreign language, or he can spend all the money on one night at a strip club. I think that it would be best for my friend to learn another language. Most people would probably agree. But it simply isn't my decision to make, nor is it the decision of “most people”. My friend’s opinion is the only one that matters. True freedom includes the freedom to ruin your own life.

You are able to pass such laws because bar owners are scared of the consequences, but it’s not a legitimate action just because you can get away with it. Now, if I were a bar owner in Atlanta, I would simply ignore any laws concerning decisions that only I, as the owner, have the right to make. This may sound disrespectful of the law, but it really isn’t. Look at it this way: Using Buckhead as an example, you may not get the local residents to admit this, but what’s really bothering them is the increased cruising traffic, noise and violence that they associate with “hip-hop culture”. Making the bars close early isn’t going to solve this problem, but you could solve it if you were to tell all the bars in Atlanta to refuse to serve black customers. I can promise you that if I were a bar owner, I would never obey that law either. I wouldn’t obey it for the same reason you would never pass it: it goes against the principles that our laws were originally created to preserve. The same is true of laws concerning operating hours of businesses. Dictating the use of private property in this way is one of the things our federal, state and local governments were created to prevent, and here you are attempting to carry it out. Please reconsider your proper place in our community.

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