- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LILBURN, Ga.

More than 100 people packed a City Council meeting to voice their opposition to a city law that bans karaoke, dancing, cards and trivia contests at restaurants that also serve alcohol.

Many in the crowd Monday night came to support the Sports Fan Bar & Grill, a local tavern where they go to sing and to play darts, trivia and pool.

Ray Pritchett, a Lilburn resident for 60 years, suggested banning songs and games from places that sell alcohol was un-American.

“If they don’t bother our life, liberty or freedom — leave them alone,” Mr. Pritchett said to applause. “We need to be doing something to bring businesses into the city, rather than running them out.”

The law has been on the books but gained attention when the police chief visited 17 businesses in February to enforce it, telling them that entertainment had to be limited to passive forms such as watching television or listening to music.

On Monday, the City Council did amend its liquor law to allow arcade games in restaurants where alcohol is sold. The members said they may revisit changing the law to allow karaoke and trivia in the coming weeks, but only one council member, Ken Swain, came out in support for allowing those activities.

Meanwhile, council member Scott Batterton warned that the council should stick to its commitment to keep bars out of Lilburn, which is northeast of Atlanta.

Lilburn Mayor Jack Bolton, who has taken the brunt of the criticism, said people are welcome to party in establishments outside the city, but he does not want the crime and problems associated with bars.

Before the council meeting, council member Diana Preston said the Sports Fan Bar & Grill had 14 police calls for crimes ranging from disorderly conduct to fights over a couple of years. Contigo Peru, which has dancing, had 15, she said.

Mr. Bolton said studies show that crime often accompanies bars. But many feel the city’s efforts to reduce crime have gone too far.

“I can understand them wanting to watch closely any activity related to gambling, but when you start legislating whether you can have karaoke, trivia to run off restaurants and bars that you think might give the city a seedy reputation, I think that goes too far,” said Mike Puglise, a lawyer representing the Sports Fan Bar & Grill.

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