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BOC to rule on bar owner's appeal

A quorum of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners told the owner of The Spot, on Tuesday, that it would rule on an appeal challenging the revocation of the bar's business license within 30 days.

On Tuesday evening, the board held an appeal hearing for the establishment. Its business license was revoked in September by Interim Director of Community Development Alex Cohilas. Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, and commissioners Sonna Singleton and Wole Ralph, heard arguments from attorneys representing the Clayton County Police Department and The Spot, as well as the owner and operator of The Spot.

Commissioners Michael Edmondson and Gail Hambrick were not present for the appeal hearing on Tuesday.

In a hearing held Aug. 14 before Cohilas, the Clayton County Police Department's legal advisor, Maj. Ken Green, asked that The Spot's business license be revoked based on Clayton County code section 6-125, which states "no licensee shall permit any disturbance of the peace, obscenity, or any lewd, immoral or improper entertainment, conduct or practices at its place of business."

According to hearing documents, Green reported that 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."

While giving testimony before the Board of Commissioners, The Spot's owner, Expedicto Marmol, told the board that the departure of surrounding businesses at the Pointe South Shopping Center has led to the area's decay.

"I've been operating since November of 2002," Marmol said. "At that time, there were 12 or 13 businesses in operation. Back in August, there were about five or six. Ingle's used to be there. After the supermarket left, everything kind of went down."

Paul Marmol, Expedicto Marmol's brother and a fellow restaurateur, said his brother was being blamed by the police department for crime taking place in the vicinity of The Spot. He said that about "90 percent of those cases" cited by the police department in the Aug. 14 hearing "were not even at our address" and that other cases were burglaries of The Spot which were reported to the police by management.

"They are using those cases against him where he was the victim," Paul Marmol said. "The area has changed. There is no denying that. All of sudden, it's a tough area to deal with. That is not my brother's fault."

In December 2008, The Spot, located at 8514 Ga. Highway 85, Jonesboro, was the scene of a murder in which a patron was shot dead while playing pool at the establishment. In April 2009, another man was shot in the parking lot of The Spot following an altercation inside.

Rafat Shaikh, landlord of the Pointe South Shopping Center, spoke favorably of The Spot on Tuesday. He said he worried that The Spot's departure would only trigger further economic decline in the area.

"I don't think it [the crime] is because of them," Shaikh said. "I don't think they have done anything wrong to the area. We are working on bringing some anchor tenants there. There is a Chinese food restaurant and a Subway. If they [The Spot] left, those other businesses will as well ... it would be totally dead."

Shaikh said he would be willing to offer the county police department a parcel within the center, free of charge, in order to better address crime in the area.

Expedicto Marmol's attorney, Albert Wallace, argued that the restaurant's staff has been charged with no crimes, other than a citation from police for waitresses failing to properly display their licenses to serve alcohol. During the appeal hearing, Wallace furnished commissioners with pictures purported to be taken recently of waitresses at other restaurants in the county who were not showing their alcohol licenses.

"He [Expedicto Marmol] was not charged with any crime, not charged with violating any ordinance ... any act, failure to act, or anything that you may consider to be serious enough to revoke a person's business license," Wallace said. "The only charge against an employee is the failure of a waitress to have displayed, on her person, the license she gets when she is allowed to serve alcoholic beverages. This ordinance was used specifically to try to eliminate my client as a licensee and nothing has been done to enforce this ordinance on other licensees."

Green said the heart of the matter for the police department involves the shootings which occurred at The Spot in December 2008 and April 2009, and that he believes revoking its business license is "the only way to rehabilitate a place with that kind of history."

"The murder of December 2008 and the shooting of April 2009 ... that was what attracted the attention of the police department," Green said. "It's [Wallace's argument] an attempt take attention away from the murder and shooting that took place over there. The issue here for the county is public safety."

Bell declined to comment on the matter, but said the board would render its decision during a regular business session within the next 30 days.