Photo by Curt Yeomans
Brian Rayl, owner of Frightmore Haunted House, explains some of the sets used in his temporary business.
MORROW The owner of a haunted house in Morrow late Friday afternoon got the city’s permission to open, following a Clayton News Daily report on the city economic development director’s urging the business move out of the city.
Frightmore Haunted House owner Brian Rayl said he received his operating license from the city Friday at 5 p.m. It was too late for him to open that night to the public, but he said he will open his doors Saturday so he can scare bejeebies out of people. He said the city, which had given him a long list of somewhat minor issues they demanded he address, didn’t explain why they had an abrupt change of heart.
Rayl said he believed they changed their mind after Clayton News Daily published an article about a comment from Morrow Economic Development Director Michael McLaughlin, telling Rayl that Frightmore was not wanted in the city.
“It’s like magic,” Rayl told Clayton News Daily, giving the newspaper credit for the city’s reversal.
However, the battle between McLaughlin and Rayl could come at a future cost for the city — and possibly all of Clayton County. Rayl said he will not return to Morrow after this year because of his struggles with the economic development director.
Rayl’s not even sure he wants to stay in the county.
“I’ll probably move a little further south, like around McDonough,” he said. “There’s a slim possibility we’ll still be in Clayton County, but it’s very slim.”
In all, Rayl has only lost two days of business because of his issues with the city, but he said his 35 part-time employees lost part-time pay because they couldn’t open. Those employees, he said, include students from Clayton State University, Mt. Zion High School and Luella High School. He said he also hires off-duty Morrow police officers at $25-per-hour to provide security, so they also lost out on chances to make extra pay.
“Not only [were] they keeping us from opening, they’ve hurt the people who worked here, and they [didn’t] receive any revenue from us, because we weren’t open,” said Rayl.
He added nearby restaurants also lost business because Frightmore traditionally draws large crowds from as far away as Alabama. “It definitely affects some of the businesses surrounding us,” the haunted house owner said. “Will it affect H.H. Gregg? Probably not, but food and drink businesses like Carrabbas and Taco Bell — yeah, most definitely. People have gotta eat while they’re here.”
A car from Henry County pulled into the Southlake Pavilion parking lot in Morrow Thursday night and crept past Frightmore Haunted House before finally coming to a stop.
A girl leaned out the window and wondered aloud why more people weren’t there.
“Hey, are you guys open?” the girl asked Rayl.
Rayl then had to explain why his haunted house wasn’t open, even though advertisements posted from Kennesaw to McDonough said it would be.
“We’re having trouble with the city of Morrow and they won’t give me a permit to open,” Rayl told the young lady. “The city’s economic development director has told me he doesn’t want us in the city.”
The four passengers in the car each expressed shock and disappointment over the issue, with some of them cursing about the situation.
“I’m sorry you’re going through this, hopefully you can open soon,” the girl said, before driving off.
“That’s $80 right there driving away,” said Rayl, as he watched the group leave.
Starting tonight, however, he won’t have to turn away anymore customers.