Category: Local Business

Surely the Apocalypse is Upon Us

deans_bbqOur little family moved from Jonesboro to Douglas County back in the 1990’s. On our first visit to the local BBQ joint, my then six-year-old turned up her nose and sniffed like a NYT food critic, “It’s not Dean’s.”

In every BBQ contest and ranking and internet flame war, I have trumpeted the delights of Dean’s for many years. You will never find better. But now time is running out.

The bastion of BBQ in Jonesboro is closing it’s doors on December 31.

Debate all you want the merits of sauces (Mustard! Get thee away from me!), the depths of smoke rings, the sweetness of porcine cuisine. Just talk amongst yourselves. I’ll be in Jonesboro, standing in what will very soon be a very long line.

A New Life for Underground Atlanta?

Will the third time be the charm? From what I’m told, during the 1970s, Underground Atlanta was a thriving place for Atlanta’s happy hours and night life. Fulton County’s liquor laws were much more permissive than surrounding counties, and before the era of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Underground was the place go to wind up the workday. Nightlife abounded.

Two, maybe three, things changed that. The first was MARTA rail. Construction of the East-West line made access more difficult, and took up some of the area’s space. DeKalb county allowed liquor by the drink. And white flight stoked fears of hanging around downtown. No longer the hangout of locals, Underground wallowed for a while, re-opening in 1989 as a $142 million project of the Rouse Company, hoping to duplicate its success at other locations like Baltimore’s Harborplace.

Underground Atlanta never was able to capture the excitement it generated 40 years ago. Eventually the complex’s ownership reverted to the city of Atlanta, and Underground sits … waiting for its third iteration.

Underground’s new life could begin this fall, as WRS Corporation envisions a new purpose for the 12 acre site: people might want to live there. The New York Times writes of the possibilities:

The new plan, said Kristi Rooks, a WRS project developer, will focus on attracting residents, now that this city, for so long defined by suburban development, appears to be looking inward.

In the 1970s, a decade characterized by white flight and suburban sprawl, the city of Atlanta shed roughly 70,000 residents. But recent population estimates suggest that the city is adding thousands of residents per year, with some looking for a more soulful urban experience, or at least a way to avoid a soul-deadening commute.

The population boom is helping drive other developments in the city, including the BeltLine, an unfinished 22-mile pathway for pedestrians, bikes and possibly public transit that follows old railroad lines; and Ponce City Market, a project that is transforming a historic Sears, Roebuck & Co. building into new retail, residential and office space.

“I don’t think that our idea is revolutionary,” Ms. Rooks said of Underground. “I think that our timing is spot on. People want to be in urban centers, and they want that authenticity, and they want to be on transit. And that wasn’t always the case.”

Midtown Atlanta is bursting at the seams, with plans to add additional floors to an existing building. Access to transit is becming a lifestyle choice for many, a factor companies are taking into account when deciding where to locate. South of Underground Atlanta and Capitol Hill, there will be room for redevelopment after the Braves relocate to Cobb County.

Will the WRS vision for an urban community be the phoenix to revive the heart of old Atlanta? Time will tell.

A Local Issue of Matlock Proportions

As I’m a lady who can’t resist either Matlock or a multi-layered story on a slightly-offbeat municipal government issue, it’s not surprising that this article caught my eye.

With Gold City Growlers’ alcohol license on the line, a Matlock-worthy legal display erupted in Dahlonega City Hall last Monday.

Behind most of the pyrotechnics was local lawyer Zack Tumlin who passionately argued that his client was not in violation of a series of city ordinances during a catered event that took place outside their doors in mid-November.

“Gold City Growlers ought not to be on trial before you now,” he said before a meeting room packed with local business owners, officials and concerned city residents.

Ultimately the council did not agree with that sentiment as they unanimously found the craft beer specialty store guilty of multiple open container violations alongside the alleged offense of catering without a license.

Yet, in the same breath, the council opted to withhold the punishment of a $1,000 fine and a two week alcohol license suspension assuming the store does not have any further violations in 2015.

“I make a motion to suspend the sentence and the fine,” said council member Michael Clemons. “And should no further violation occur by December 31st both the fine and 14 day penalty shall be rescinded.”

The decision arrived after more than four hours of legal arguments and volleying testimony, with city attorney Doug Parks squaring off against Tumlin before a seated city council.

Dahlonega isn’t the only Georgia city that’s had to be nimble in interpreting their existing ordinances, or developing new ordinances, in response to the growing popularity of growler shops. This case, though, is particularly interesting as it involves the local Chamber of Commerce, event invitations to the Dahlonega Mayor and City Council, and the Georgia Open Meetings Act:

Mayor Gary McCullough then announced that the city council would be leaving the meeting room to deliberate.

At this point The Nugget questioned whether the council should keep the proceedings in the open since the jury consisted of a quorum of elected officials conducting city business.

Parks cited “attorney client privilege” as the reason for leaving the meeting.

When the matter was taken to Georgia Press Association legal advisor David E. Hudson he said such reasoning might not withstand legal scrutiny.

“A license revocation hearing is not one of those exceptions listed in the Open Meetings Act that allows the city to discuss or deliberate in a closed session,” he said.

The council was behind closed doors for more than 30 minutes.

This case is a solid example of why ordinances like those addressing growler shops need to be handled thoughtfully by municipalities and counties, and why those drafting and approving those ordinances should be aware of how far they do – and don’t – want to go in regulating the businesses that many of their residents might like to see in their city. It will be interesting to see if this case also proves to be a cautionary tale for city leaders who are in doubt about interpretation and enforcement of Georgia Open Records Act.

End of an Era – Butch’s Chicken House to Close

Butch’s, a mainstay of the Jonesboro culinary scene since 1951, is closing October 4. Next Saturday is your last chance for biscuits.

Many of the morning regulars, including my own mother, are forever locals and classmates from Jonesboro High.

I had my first cheeseburger there, long before McDonald’s arrived in the Land of Tara.

Like those of us who mourned the closing of Carver’s, this is one of those “chapters in the book of life” that is hard to take.

butchs

Update: Brookhaven May … Or May Not … Get Google Fiber

On Wednesday night, Brookhaven City Councilman Bates Mattison announced the city had been selected to receive Google Fiber.

Shortly after 12:30 pm on Thursday, Mattison sent this clarification:

Is Google Fiber coming to Brookhaven?
Is Google Fiber coming to Brookhaven?

“I would like to clarify that though Brookhaven is one of the nine metro Atlanta cities being considered to receive Google Fiber, no final selections or decisions have been made. Brookhaven is working with the Google team to provide information regarding the city’s infrastructural capacity to support this project. I assure you that I, along with my fellow council members, are working with city staff to do everything we can to bring fiber to Brookhaven. We are all very excited that Google has identified Brookhaven as one of 34 cities nationwide to potentially receive Google Fiber. However, the decision regarding which cities will receive Google Fiber will be announced by Google by the end of this year.”

As earlier reported on Peach Pundit, Brookhaven was on a list of cities in consideration, but Mattison, according to the Brookhaven Post, said Wednesday night the municipality had actually been selected.

Here are Mattison’s Wednesday night comments:

“While Google has asked for confidentiality regarding the details of their Google Fiber launch in Brookhaven & Metro Atlanta, I can confirm that all of the cities listed on their webpage, including Brookhaven, have been selected to receive Google Fiber.

“Our city staff is already working to put together the information requested by Google, so that they may determine how and when to deploy Google Fiber in the Metro Atlanta region. Google representatives were impressed with the online petition and asked that those people interested in their service instead please sign up on their Get updates page  to keep informed of Google Fiber’s progress.

“The city of Brookhaven is very excited to be one of the metro Atlanta cities selected to receive Google Fiber. I assure you our staff will continue to work closely with Google throughout this process. I believe this is a benefit to our areas economic development, and drives innovation through increased competition in this market for internet and television service.”

Falcons Have a Way Out of Their Stadium Deal

The Atlanta Falcons can kill their stadium deal if the city hasn’t sold at least $200 million in bonds by Sept. 30, according to The Saporta Report.

The team can also back out if the former Herndon Homes public housing site isn’t made available for surface parking.

On Wednesday morning, the Atlanta City Council’s Utilities Committee is set for a work session to discuss the proposed abandonments and the configuration of streets in the stadium area. 

Herndon Homes was built during World War II and named for Alonzo F. Herndon, founder of the Atlanta Life Insurance Co. The Atlanta Housing Authority demolished the community, of about 500 homes, in 2011 with plans to sell the property.

These details and others are contained in the instruments signed Feb. 5 by Frank Poe, executive director of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, and Rich McKay, president/CEO of the Atlanta Falcons Stadium Co.

Alcohol License Denied; Death Blow to the Pink Pony?

Brookhaven has taken another step in forcing the Pink Pony out of business.

The Brookhaven Post is reporting that on Monday night, the city’s Alcohol Board of Appeals sustained a decision from Finance Director Bonnie Kline to deny the club its 2014 alcohol license.

The city says the license was denied because, “The application states Teri Galardi is the license holder. But the Georgia Department of Revenue’s alcohol licensing division advises that neither Teri Galardi nor Dennis Williams [Pink Pony CFO] is the licensee, and the Department was not informed of the passing of Jack Galardi.”

But Pink Pony Attorney Aubrey Villines and CFO Dennis Williams argued the state license is valid and the city denied their application in error. “Galardi, who was the license holder for his business died, in 2012. His daughter, Terri Galardi, trustee for Jack Galardi is the new license holder, although corporate ownership for Pink Pony has not changed.”

Villines also suggested the Pink Pony was not receiving the same treatment any other business in Brookhaven would receive simply because they are engaged in a legal battle with the city.

Next steps for the city and the club could depend on how Brookhaven decides to enforce the Pink Pony’s lack of a city issued alcohol license. The Pink Pony could also appeal to the DeKalb County Superior Court.

Open Houses: Woodall on Veterans Benefits, and Barrow on How To Get Online

Congress is not in session this week. While some might wonder why our elected representatives appear to spend so much time in their districts and away from Washington, spending time at home gives them the opportunity to interact with their constituents, and sometimes, offer help.

Two such events are planned in the next ten days.

On Thursday, January 23rd, Seventh District Congressman Rob Woodall will provide an opportunity for military veterans to meet in person with representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Georgia Department of Labor, and other agencies that can help them get benefits to which they are entitled, or to get questions about topics including educational benefits and medical care answered. According to Woodall,

Politics can be complicated and divisive, but serving your neighbor is not. Our military veterans and their families embody the best of these service values, and they are such a remarkable blessing to all of us. One of the greatest honors I have in serving the Seventh District in Congress is the opportunity to assist our veterans. My office works with individual veterans daily and our Veterans Assistance Open House this Thursday is an extension of that service. We’re bringing experts from all of the VA service agencies together in one place so that veterans can get face-to-face solutions.

The Veterans Open House is scheduled from 10 AM – Noon at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.

Small businesses can get help in using the Internet to expand their reach in a workshop co-sponsored by 12th District Representative John Barrow and Google. At the “Georgia Get Your Business Online” event, participants will be able to create their own websites. They will also receive a customized domain name, web hosting for a year, and additional training and resources. According to Congressman Barrow,

Access to an online marketplace is changing the way small businesses operate. Google is providing an invaluable resource to these entrepreneurs and opening up some of the great businesses we have here in the 12th District to a new customer base. I’m looking forward to welcoming them to our region, and hope small businesses will take part in the workshops.

Two sessions are available on Thursday, January 30th, the first from 9 AM – Noon, and the second from 1 PM – 4 PM. They will be held at the Enterprise Mill Event Center, 1450 Greene Street in Augusta. More information and pre-registration is available at GeorgiaGetOnline.com.

Pink Pony Taking Its Case to Georgia’s Supreme Court

Hoping to stay in business, Brookhaven’s Pink Pony is taking its case to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Last Friday, the popular Buford Highway strip club filed an appeal to the December 23 order that dismissed their lawsuit against the city of Brookhaven.

One of the new city council’s first laws was an ordinance prohibiting alcohol service at adult-oriented establishments. The club filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance back in May.

Two days before Christmas, DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson issued a 33-page order 23 granting Brookhaven’s motion to dismiss all 15 counts in Pink Pony’s 36-page complaint.

DeKalb’s Largest City Marks One Year

The city of Brookhaven marked its first birthday on Tuesday, December 17, with a celebration in the city’s signature commercial and residential development, appropriately called Town Brookhaven.

But as DeKalb’s largest city marked its one-year anniversary since incorporation, another round of anonymous robo-calls criticizing Brookhaven’s leadership were being sent out.

The recording featured a woman’s voice, saying that, over the last year, city leaders have used taxpayer dollars for personal security expenses, legal fees and other items. Then the recording gave listeners an option to contact the mayor and city council directly, to express their displeasure, by pressing “1.”

The recording then ended with, “If not, then Happy Holidays.”

This isn’t the first time robo-calls condemning the city’s leadership have burned up Brookhaven’s phone lines. For several weeks and months after the municipalization vote, and as the new city was being organized, residents received automated calls that said Mayor J. Max Davis was planning to raise taxes through millage rate increases and other measures.

The city adopted a $26.3 million budget this past Tuesday that included a 3.5 percent pay raise for city employees.

In the meantime, Davis told AllNews 106.7 that the Pink Pony’s lawsuit against the city is still ongoing.

Earlier this year, the city passed an ordinance prohibiting alcohol service in adult-oriented establishments, which prompted a lawsuit from the Buford Highway strip club. Davis said he is confident in the ordinance, but looking back, he would have liked to had more time to discuss the city’s reasoning behind the law with Brookhaven residents.

The city has recently found a permanent home for its city hall – on Peachtree Road near Oglethorpe University – and a Buford Highway location for its police department.

The Weather Channel Looking For Some Gravy Too

With the Cobb County Commission voting to proceed forward with plans on building the future home of the Atlanta Braves, The Weather Channel (based in Cobb County) is looking to sop up some of that gravy too according to the Marietta Daily Journal:

Its planned expansion is valued at $90 million, Mathis said in emails obtained by the MDJ. Shirley Powell, executive vice president, said The Weather Channel would not comment and that anything the MDJ reported at this point would be “speculation.”

The negotiations are ongoing and one of the sticking points could be a parking facility for the expanded Weather Channel offices.

“To be honest with you, (off the record) none of these discussions have really provided us with any type compelling incentives for us to stay in Cobb County. I am just being honest here,” Angell wrote to Mathis in an email. “Our senior management feels that they would be making a significant investment to stay here and as far as I know, The Weather Channel has never historically asked for any incentives from Cobb County. The property tax abatement is also not a compelling incentive at the current amount, and in fact would cost us to pursue that option. Nobody has focused on any incentives for a parking build, which is our most current challenge to solve.”

It’s speculation for now, but the talk flying around is that the Weather Channel is dangling the possibility of moving out of the area if they are unable to get satisfactory tax breaks/economic incentives. Heck, it’s possible the state may throw a few bucks their way. I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before we hear that gravy train pulling into the station for the Weather Channel.

Lockheed Martin Announces Factory Consolidation, Job Cuts; Should Marietta Be Anxious?

I saw an alert from Bloomberg about Lockheed Martin announcing plans for closing and consolidating facilities across the United States as well as cutting over 4000+ jobs.  I found the presser from Lockheed Martin on today’s announcement.  Here’s a snippet:

Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] announced today that it will close and consolidate several of its U.S. facilities and reduce its workforce by 4,000 positions as part of its effort to increase the efficiency of its operations and improve the affordability of its products and services. These actions are in response to continued declines in U.S. government spending.

By mid-2015, the Corporation plans to close its operations in Newtown, Pa.; Akron, Ohio; Goodyear, Ariz.; and Horizon City, Texas; and four buildings on its Sunnyvale, Calif., campus. The facility closures will result in the elimination of 2,000 positions and ongoing operational efficiency initiatives will result in the elimination of an additional 2,000 positions in the Corporation’s Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS), Mission System and Training (MST), and Space Systems business areas by the end of 2014.

As part of the consolidation, all program work and some employees will transition to other Lockheed Martin facilities, creating operational efficiencies and reducing costs. Space Systems and IS&GS will transition work to its Denver, Colo. and Valley Forge, Pa. facilities. The Corporation is reviewing potential sites to transition the MST work, including its facilities in Owego, N.Y. and Orlando, Fla., and expects to finalize plans in early 2014.  Details on each facility and the consolidation activities can be found on the company website.

They don’t mention the Marietta plant as one that’s being affected, but the downsizing may cause local, state, and national elected officials here in Georgia to perk up just a bit.

Crystal Springs Print Works In Chickamauga Shutters Operations

Steve Tarvin’s Crystal Springs Print Works in Chickamauga is shutting down after being open for over 100 years.  You may remember Steve from the 2010 9th District Congressional race and the 2012 2nd District House race.  Steve’s known me since I was born, so this strikes really close to home for me.  I hate to hear that Steve had to close the plant’s doors, but the nature of the economy coupled with the ever-changing textile industry just made it unsustainable.  From the Walker County Messenger:

“There are no excuses,” said Steve Tarvin, the plant’s owner since 1983. “I’d say I wasn’t a good enough businessman to make it in today’s financial climate.”

Tarvin said there are about five companies in the U.S. that operate facilities similar to Crystal Springs Print Works, “but there isn’t enough business between them to keep one plant running full time.”

While there is no consistency in the business and risks far outweigh rewards, Tarvin said that was not always the case.

For decades after its opening in 1909 as Crystal Springs Bleachery Company, the plant was the town’s major employer and Chickamauga grew to become a typical Southern mill town.

But a shifting textile industry made it ever more difficult to maintain profitability and the local plant had been on shaky financial footing for several years.

Steve is a smart businessman.  He’s not filing for bankruptcy and exploring different opportunities with the mill.  The continuing economic situation may have Steve down, but I have no doubt that he’ll be able to come back in another venture.  Good luck, Steve.

New Atlanta Startup Aims to Help Underfunded Muncipalities

A new kind of crowdfunding platform, Uruut, is designed for greater fundraising success.

Today, Uruut TM, a collaborative community-level funding platform, announces its public beta period and invites individuals, businesses and foundations to contribute through its unique crowdfunding technology. The Atlanta-based social enterprise startup is backed by $200,000 in seed funding and a high profile advisory board comprised of corporate and philanthropic leaders.

Uruut helps transform local communities by bringing together three funding sources with municipalities, nonprofits and civic groups seeking project and program backing. This collaborative approach revolutionizes the traditional fundraising model and empowers fundraisers to do more good.

The Ashford Park School Education Foundation (APSEF) is the first project out of the gate, hoping to raise $100,000 for an outdoor classroom.

The complete press-release is below the fold. Read more

More on LEED and FSC Timber Certification

With another comment today on the GAGOP Resolution from the Executive Director of the Southeastern Wood Producers Association, I did some additional research on LEED certification regarding timber, and saw this newspiece from AthensOnline.

As the story states, one doesn’t have to use LEED-certified wood to receive LEED certification. What it doesn’t state is that there are different levels of LEED certification and, for that reason, every point counts. LEED uses the international FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification for wood. This certification actively and openly discourages pine plantations.

For the free marketeers, the problems are legion. The FSC agreement addresses labor relations, the community interests in private property, and even how much timberland can be clearcut at a time. The limit, unless there are extenuating market demands, is 40 acres. The exception allows for 80 acres. For people with hundreds or thousands of acres of pines, this is simply not acceptable. It also negates the advantage most of Georgia has in the speed with which pine trees reach maturity by forcing harvesting over an extended period of time.

Read more