Sam Massell

Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell says night clubs and Buckhead residents can coexist. Just ask the panel of police officers and regulators gathered at the Buckhead Theater on Sept. 22.

The police, fire, building inspector, and health department representatives said they were there to help educate club owners about running their business the right way. For most of the meeting, Massell talked about the need to coexist and get along. But he made it clear he was willing to bring the heat down on club owners.

Massell said he’s been hearing complaints about noise from residents near West Village and East Paces Ferry Road. Massell reminded the audience of problems the neighborhood experienced with Buckhead’s rowdy night life in East Village 12 years ago.

“We’re promising you and if in fact the complaints continue and you’re violating the law … there will be every effort made to bring the full force and enforcement of the city,” Massell said.

But some of the club owners said they felt more like the meeting was an attempt to drive them out of Buckhead.

Alan Begner, an attorney representing several bars, spoke after Massell and the other officials gave presentations about what procedures owners need to follow.

“I think nightclub owners have reason to wonder whether the Buckhead Coalition thinks nightclubs have rights,” Begner said, adding later, “I’m concerned the ones who don’t cause trouble … are going to be cited because Buckhead wants to get rid of nightclubs.”

Massell rebutted.

“He gets paid for his opinions on night clubs. I don’t,” Massell told the group. “I respect his interest in defending them. You’re not able to express what my thoughts are. You can try, but you failed.”

Some of the bar owners didn’t want to give their names out of fear of reprisal from officials. The ones that did speak couched their responses in diplomatic terms.

Joel Darby, a West Village bar owner who didn’t want to say what bar he owns, said it’s important for everybody “to shape up a little bit” and said he’s primarily concerned with safety. He said the amount of new bars in Buckhead caused an uptick in the number of complaints about noise.

“In the past year there’s been six new bars opening up over here,” Darby said. “Six bars brings in six times the number of people.”

Steve de Haan, owner of East Andrews Café and Bar on East Andrews Drive, was also hesitant to answer questions.

“I’m thankful that we’re talking and look forward to being part of the solution,” de Haan said.