Old v. new – Lounge drama in Kirkwood

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 15, 2014
A picture of Hosea Williams, left, and Franklin Morris, right, that hangs in the Morris' Restaurant and Lounge in Kirkwood.

A picture of Hosea Williams, left, and Franklin Morris, right, that hangs in the Morris Restaurant and Lounge in Kirkwood.

For the last few months there has been a standoff between neighbors and the owners of Morris Restaurant and Lounge on Oakview Road in Kirkwood.

On one level, it’s a battle over nuisance and noise. At a different level, it’s a battle pitting the old Kirkwood against the new. Morris Restaurant has been in business since the 1960′s. Hosea Williams, the civil rights leader, was a patron and his picture is on the wall by the front door. It’s a historically black-owned business in a community that is becoming increasingly white as new families move in.

The neighbors says Morris’ children have turned the lounge into a rowdier club that keeps them up at all hours. There are reports of fights in the parking lot and trash in the neighbors’ yards. The business is owned by the family of the late Franklin Morris. Morris’ son, Roosevelt, said he feels that that Kirkwood’s gentrification is driving out black-owned businesses like his. He said he can’t do anything about the actions of patrons when they are not on his property.

“”We can’t control grown people,” he said during an interview in February. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to do within the confines of the law.”

Until recently, Atlanta Police hadn’t issued any citations to the owners, but on April 5 the owners received a citation for playing loud music. The case will go to court on May 8.

“While speaking with witness, we heard a DJ speaking through a sound system coming from inside the lounge at 2254 Oakview Road,” the police report says. “It was plainly audible to me. The song ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams started playing inside the lounge. The song was plainly audible enough for me to hear what song it was and the words to the song. I was standing slightly more than 50 feet away from the lounge at this time. I spoke with club owner Mr. Franklin B. Morris. I explained to Mr. Morris about the ‘plainly audible’ city noise ordinance.”

Decaturish.com attempted to contact Roosevelt Morris about the citation, but he didn’t respond. A reporter spoke with him at length several weeks ago after being made aware of the residents’ complaints. At that time, no citation had been issued and there were only conflicting accounts between Morris and his neighbors.

Morris said his business has been an important part of Kirkwood’s history and an active part of the community. He said since his new neighbors moved in, he’s faced multiple complaints and filming of activities around the restaurant.

A reporter tried several times to get residents living around the club to go on record, but they declined, saying they were afraid of retaliation. Jim Chrencik lives on Memorial Drive and says he can hear the club from his house.

“Even being that far I hear continuous car alarms, screaming yelling every so often, gun shots,” he said. “”If I’m hearing it 1,000 feet away, I can’t even imagine it living 100 feet away. People bring out these souped up cars and will do really loud screeching burnouts in front of Morris’. It’s a nightmare.”

The neighbors contend that they never had a problem when Morris’ father ran things. Franklin Morris was more likely to play old school R&B music and attract an older clientele.

Morris’ acknowledged that things are little different now.

“It’s hip hop,” he said.

The case has put Atlanta officials in an awkward spot, too. They’re faced with the prospect of going after a business that’s a link to Kirkwood’s past. Zone 6 Commander Maj. Timothy Peek said during the March 10 Kirkwood Neighbors’ Organization meeting that the department receives calls complaining about Morris’ and calls defending it.

“My prayer is that somehow, someway, that we can get in there and have some one-on-one true dialogue to break down this barrier,” Peek said. “I don’t know if 30 of you all want to show up and patronize a place at one time. My prayer is that somehow we can break that barrier and coexist.”

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • This is a very interesting. Being one of the (many) black gentrifiers in Kirkwood I on the one hand want to respect the history and culture of this establishment, that has been there far longer than the people complaining about it, but on the other hand I would like to sleep at night and if this place was stopping me from doing that I would be mad too. I’ve only been in Kirkwood for 3 years and I’ve noticed a change in the culture of the neighborhood. People (white and black) used to have more of a relaxed attitude around the nuisances of the neighborhood, chalking it up to being intown, but now people complain a lot more and are more vocal. Not sure if its a good or bad thing but definitely different.

  • Robert Johnson

    First, I contacted Mr. Whisenhunt quite some time ago with the our experience of mine since we moved in near Morris’s. Initially, we attempted to engage Roosevelt in asking him to turn down the music but were repeatedly met with disdain and total disrespect as if our right to enjoy our property in peace and relative quiet was trumped by his business and its history. While I understand their right to be in business, they must acknowledge that their neighbors also have rights.
    The primary issue according to people that have lived here longer than us is that Franklin Morris ran a much different establishment than the current operators (it’s important for many reasons to know that Franklin’s widow holds the license for the lounge and not Roosevelt who would legally not be allowed to do so).
    This has nothing to do with black v white and has everything to do with respecting your neighbors. Turn down the music and the problem goes away.

  • Iluminattiwatcher

    I wonder if any of those complaining have ever been in Morris Lounge? I’m white. I’ve been many times and most people there are very welcoming and friendly … especially after a few Blue MFers … one of the house specials!

  • CommonRespect

    I guarantee you that if I (being white and having only lived in Kirkwood for 6 years) was making too much noise and causing a mess to my (black, well established, multi-generation) neighbors’ property on a regular basis, they too would call the police and file complaints. This isn’t a race or gentrification issue. It’s a legal issue about a disturbance and one regarding respect for our neighbors.

    And, yes, I have been to the Lounge quite a few times and have been welcomed by the customers and staff alike. It doesn’t have to do with having a good time and good drinks there, if they’re disobeying the noise ordinance that’s all that needs to be addressed.

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