The Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted Tuesday to formally revoke the business license of "The Spot" restaurant at 8514 Ga. Highway 85 in Jonesboro.
The vote upholds a September decision by Fire Chief and Chief of Staff Alex Cohilas acting in his capacity as Interim Director of Community Development to revoke the license of the restaurant, which has been in business since 2002.
During a Jan. 12 appeal hearing before the BOC, lawyers for the Clayton County Police Department said police had been called to The Spot's location 85 times since its opening in November 2002, to respond to incidents involving "armed robberies, rape, domestic disturbances, vehicle thefts, public drunkenness, public indecency, the sale and/or use of illegal substances, furnishing alcohol to minors, a shooting and a homicide."
In December 2008, the restaurant was the scene of a murder in which a patron was shot dead while playing pool. In April 2009, another man was shot in the parking, following an altercation inside the business.
On Tuesday, BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell, Vice Chairman Wole Ralph, and Commissioner Sonna Singleton voted to revoke The Spot's business license. Commissioners Gail Hambrick and Michael Edmondson abstained, as they were not present at the Jan. 12 appeal hearing.
Bell said the incidents at The Spot were "significant enough" to warrant taking away its business license. "I think it is about community safety," he said. "As a former police chief, I expect people in those kinds of businesses, where alcohol is sold, to control their clientele. When we have to come in to do it, it calls into question whether they are deserving of a license.
"They knew what kind of business they were opening," Bell said. "They should have hired a few off-duty police officers. It would cost us a lot less than putting a precinct there."
The Spot's owner, Expedicto Marmol, was reached on Tuesday night by phone, but was unavailable for comment. Paul Marmol, Expedicto Marmol's brother and business associate, said his brother is planning to appeal the board's decision in Clayton County Superior Court. He said he believes the business is being unfairly punished, and said the board's decision will put 20 cooks, waitresses, dishwashers, and bartenders out of a job.
"I've never seen anything like that where they are bent on putting us out of business," Marmol said. "We have been willing to do whatever we can to work with them ... but they haven't even approached us as how to address the problem. Most of the stuff that happened there happened to us. We were the victim. Last night, I saw that Macy's [at Southlake Mall] got robbed. Are they going to close Macy's down? These are just the times were are in. We are being punished for what other people do.
"If we were doing something illegal at that location, I can see how they would have the right to do that [revoke the business license]," he continued. "My brother has been there for almost nine years. I think it's unfair that they are trying to put all these people out of work. We are prepared, more or less, to appeal it to a higher court."
In another matter, the BOC voted to move forward on the construction of a fitness facility attached to the Frank Bailey Senior Center in Riverdale. According to Bell, the project was started in 2008, but was derailed due to problems with the architect.
"It is a fitness facility for our seniors to keep them as healthy as we possibly can," Bell said. "It's been something I have been eagerly awaiting for," he said. "We had a contract with a company that I directed to be fired over a year ago, because they failed to produce our documents necessary to construct the building ... We have since taken some corrective action. Construction is now underway and should be complete within 9 to 10 months."
According to Bell, Benning Construction Co., in Smyrna, will be tasked with building the new facility. The Clayton County Housing and Community Development Program will be responsible for overseeing the construction contract.
Lance Crawford, director of the Clayton County Housing and Community Development Program, said the cost of the new 65,000-to-70,000-square-foot facility will be $941,873 and will be paid for entirely with Community Development Block Grant funds.