Owner fights uphill battle to open business

FOREST PARK — Alfonso Daggett said all he wants to do is bring something nice to Forest Park, an upscale eatery that will keep diners and their money south of Atlanta.

Before Daggett could get First Class Ultra Lounge and Restaurant opened at 5340 Old Dixie Road, he was cited by Forest Park police for allegedly selling alcohol without a license.

He’s hoping it’s a misunderstanding that can be cleared up when he goes to Municipal Court March 12.

“I’m trying to open an honest business,” said Daggett, a retired, disabled veteran with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan behind him. “Everyone in the area has noticed a difference since I took over the building. It’s not like I’m a hoodlum. I’m trying to do something honest.”

Daggett was in the process of getting his business and alcohol licenses when a friend asked if a birthday party could be held in the space. Daggett said he checked with Forest Park police to make sure using the building for private purposes could be done. He said he was told it was OK so he made phone calls to the people behind the party after he visited the police department.

Chief Dwayne Hobbs said it would be “completely out of character” for the officer identified by Daggett to have given such permission.

Daggett said no money exchanged hands and he told partiers, which he said were ages 50-90, no alcohol was allowed on the premises.

“I didn’t gain anything from it,” he said. “They paid $150, which was given to the DJ to play music. Any alcohol I saw, I got rid of.”

Daggett said he was surprised to see officers at the party and even more shocked to be cited for alcohol.

“All my life, I’ve worked,” he said. “I’ve never been in trouble.”

Born in Augusta, Daggett said he moved to Washington, D.C., after graduating from high school. He said he understands how policing operates and tries to always follow the rules and the law.

“I was in law enforcement before I joined the Army,” said Daggett. “I had to retire from the Army last year because I am 100 percent disabled.”

Daggett has his business license and City Manager Frank Brandon said he can serve food, just no alcohol until he gets his alcohol license. Hobbs said Daggett has to have his citation disposed of before he can apply for an alcohol license.

Daggett said he doesn’t understand how the situation rose to this level.

“I have too much to lose, I don’t have time to play games,” he said. “If I went out of my way to talk to the officer to make sure having a private party was OK, why would I mess that up? He told me as long as I didn’t sell food or alcohol, it would be fine.”

Daggett has hired an attorney and will be in court next month to fight the citation so he can move on to getting his business open.

“I did nothing wrong,” he said. “I did everything I was told to do. I can’t understand this.”