Dear Decaturish – Lounge is community concern

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt July 24, 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. has published articles about the Morris Restaurant and Lounge in Kirkwood. During the reporting of that story, both sides were asked for a comment. The neighbors of the lounge asked to submit this letter in response to a previous article. We accept letters to the editor. If you’re interested in submitting one for publication, please send it to

Dear Decaturish,

Myself and many other neighbors were very disappointed in the previous article that ran in Decaturish regarding the noise citation against Morris Restaurant and Lounge. We had no intention of ever bringing our situation to the media and had hoped we could work it out in a neighborly fashion. But Mr. Morris provided several quotes that were unsubstantiated and presented as fact, so we’ve decided to let our side of the story be heard and hope that the family takes our requests to heart.

Many of us that live near Morris Restaurant and Lounge have tried to express our concerns to the family about how the club currently operates. We’ve approached them as neighbors, with handshakes and friendly greetings. Unfortunately, they’ve shown a lack of desire to understand our position.

Weekend after weekend, starting very late at night, the club’s music is so loud that it can be heard in some of our homes, the patrons drink and yell in the streets late into the night (some Saturdays can can go as late as 4am) and we are either woken up or can’t sleep at all. Last November, several neighbors met with the owners and had only a few simple requests, such as keeping the music at a level so that it could not be heard outside of their building. That would ensure that no neighbors are disturbed by it. We thought that would be an easy enough solution that everyone could agree on. But the owners/manager told us that they are a club, their music has bass and there’s nothing they can do about it. It was clear that our approach as neighbors was not going to be reciprocated, which was disappointing.

So, they were cited for a noise violation. Believe me, that’s not something we want to spend our free time doing. We’d much rather be enjoying a quiet evening in our homes, minding our own business. We respect the unique right they have to run a nightclub in a residential neighborhood, but they also have to respect the fact that their nightclub is IN a residential neighborhood. They aren’t operating in a business district and they certainly aren’t in an entertainment district. They are in the middle of homes, some with young children and some with kids on the way.

The citation meant there was a court date. Several families that live nearby were all present in the courtroom that day. The previous article stated, “It’s really just one neighbor, it’s not the community,’ Morris said. ‘ … It’s like those people that were in the courtroom (on May 8). Those people don’t live in the proximity of this club. These are people that they gather to come in and support the bogus claim that they have.’”

All the families in the courtroom that day live in close proximity, with three of the families being direct neighbors. One neighbor, Kevin Burke, has lived across from the club for many years and says, “The assertion that the only other people there live nowhere near the Lounge is ludicrous. I was in the courtroom and live, per Google Earth, 225ft diagonally from the building. I, in fact, started complaining about the operation there in early 2013. The solution for everyone is quite simple… not play the music so loud that it can be heard outside the building.”

Another direct neighbor, Subash Patel, was also in attendance on the court date. He states, “As required by court, we welcome the Morris lounge owners to approach the neighborhood with a plan for both sides to exist together. Unfortunately, the owners have not and loud music and crowd noise continues to be an issue. This has been ongoing for a couple years and the complaints can be viewed by 911 records. It’s disappointing that legal action by court is necessary for the lounge to reduce the noise emitting from their music and crowds.”

Yet another neighbor, Ben Burgess, says, “My wife and I were in the courtroom for the Morris’ appearance to support the noise complaint because this is not an issue that is affecting just one neighbor. We live several houses away and are still routinely woken up by noise, both from the club and from patrons loitering in the streets. Even though there have been many previous attempts to find a solution for these problems, we hope that ownership will take this complaint seriously because the issues are having an adverse effect on the area surrounding the club.”

It’s quite telling that Mr. Morris didn’t recognize any of the neighbors there, despite the fact that many of them have lived in close proximity to his business for several years.

The judge withheld sentencing and told Mr. Morris to provide a solution that the neighbors would agree on. If they agree to keep the music at a level so that it can’t be heard on our properties, we think that would be a step in the right direction. We’re just waiting on them to offer that solution to us.

One of the club’s taglines is “Where making friends is our business.” All of their neighbors that were in court that day are hoping to see that mentality extended to us soon.

–  Derek Lawler

Photo submitted by Derek Lawler

Photo submitted by Derek Lawler

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • Andrew

    Not to quibble over semantics but, given the fact that this nightclub has been there for decades, it’s by default not a “residential neighborhood.” It’s, to use a modern term for an historic practice, a “mixed use” neighborhood, meaning a variety of uses have the right to exist there. Suggesting it’s “residential” is manipulative and takes away from the real issue: all members of a neighborhood, whatever their use, have an obligation to abide by the rules that govern them. If this establishment is committing noise or alcohol violations, clamp down on them. But if they’re not, accept the fact that you don’t live in a subdivision. I don’t see why enforcement can’t be the answer here.

    • Gina

      Andrew – it was not a nightclub but a restaurant. Since the owner’s children took over it has been changed to a very different use. It is in a residential neighborhood. I drive by there quite frequently and it is surrounded by homes pretty much on all sides. Also, they are not necessarily new homes but some of the old 1920’s bungalows. So co-existence was fine when it was run by the father. A restaurant and a nightclub are very different. When moving into a neighborhood and you see a restaurant, you aren’t worrying about the people coming out after closing hours typically. Though I do agree with you that law enforcement needs to clamp down on the violations. Oh and to Randy above. Most people aren’t allowed to play music so loud at all hours of the night without being warned to turn it down. I don’t think anyone was suggesting silence but certainly no one wants to be woken up by loud music at such a late hour either. Being in business also means being a good neighbor in your community whether you consider it residential or downtown.

      • Randy B.

        Gina, the article makes clear that several neighbors have in fact demanded — a demand repeated in this letter — that Morris:

        “not play the music so loud that it can be heard outside the building.”

        To my knowledge, there is no such legal requirement — not for Morris and not even for you and me as homeowners. The extreme position advocated here leaves me unsympathetic to a cause I might otherwise get behind.

        • Rick Derris

          Sec. 74-133. Excessive noise.

          It shall be unlawful for any person to make, continue or cause to be made or continued any loud or excessive noise which unreasonably interferes with the comfort, response, health and safety of others within the jurisdiction of the city.

          That looks like a legal requirement to me. If someone had neighbors who had loud parties until 4am 3 nights a week, you could absolutely call the police. Why is this different? We’re talking about neighbors who can clearly hear lyrics to songs coming from the club while lying in their beds. I fail to see how this is being extreme.

          • Randy B.

            Looks like that’s the city ordinance for Atlanta. Just out of curiosity, does that apply in Kirkwood?

            Regardless, that’s a pretty common phrasing for this sort of noise ordinance. The key terms here are “loud,” “excessive,” and “unreasonably.” So, when you complain about hearing song lyrics in your bed at 4am, I’m sympathetic. When you insist, in response to that problem, that the venue not make any noise that can be heard from the outside the building, I’m not. Your proposed solution here is extreme and unreasonable and goes beyond the requirements of the ordinance.

          • Rick Derris

            Kirkwood is in the City of Atlanta. We’ll have to agree to disagree with regard to the extremity of the request. I mean, where is the middle ground? You’re sympathetic to neighbors dealing with the noise while trying to sleep in their homes, all of which are 50ft away or more, but are opposed to the club turning the noise down? The same noise problem you are sympathetic to the neighbors having to deal with? That seems contradictory and herein lies the impasse.

          • Randy B.

            Rick, it’s not at all contradictory to believe that there may be a problem but disagree as to the scope of the solution.

            You say that I’m “opposed to the club turning the noise down.” That simply is not the case. In fact, in my very first comment, I wrote that “all of these problems appear to be resolvable . . . by simply enforcing existing legal requirements.”

            Notably, the ordinance at issue here does not provide that no noise can leave the premises. Rather, the ordinance states that the noise cannot be excessively and unreasonably loud. If those complaining wanted merely to stop Morris from being unreasonably loud, they could simply say so. Instead, at least as articulated here, they insist that no noise leave the building. That demand is without legal basis and, frankly, looks more like an all-or-nothing ultimatum than a meaningful effort to achieve resolution taking into account both sides’ interests.

        • Robert Johnson

          Yes there is Randy. The COA Noise Ordinance prohibits noise being heard more than 50′ from an establishment. Why is it so difficult for you to accept that while Morris has a right to be in business…. as “grandfathered” since it would not pass current zoning….that we have a right to enjoy our properties w/o hearing their music. They turn it down and we all coexist

          • Randy B.

            Hey Robert, you should check what I actually wrote as you seem to have missed it. By the way, I’m glad you concur, as demonstrated by your citation to Section 74-134(2)(b), that the opening post’s request that the noise not leave the “building” is without any legal basis.

          • John

            Randy. You have beat your point into the ground. I not think that the residents are being unreasonable, but I think you are overly caught up on a statement that the neighbors wish could be their solution. I drive by the Morris Lounge often and I do not believe there is another residence within 50 ft of the building. Therefore, if any of the residents are hearing the music in their homes or even outside of their homes, then the Morris Lounge is in violation. I will grant you that the neighbors quoted to say they do not want the music to be heard outside the building, but I think if you really got down to it, that if they could not hear the music inside their homes (greater than 50 feet) that would be acceptable. Additionally, 74-134(3) says the following is a noise ordinance: Loudspeakers and sound amplifiers. The use or operation of
            any loudspeaker system, sound amplifier or other similar device between
            the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. on weekdays, and 10:00 p.m. and
            10:00 a.m. on weekends and holidays, within or adjacent to residential or
            noise-sensitive areas, public rights-of-way or public space such that the
            sound therefrom is plainly audible across the real property line of the
            source. Would you be satisfied if the neighbors modified their statement to request that the noise either not extend across the property line of the Morris Lounge or can be audibly heard within 50 ft of the Morris Lounge. There is not a great deal of difference in the practical sense and I bet if the Morris Lounge offered that solution up the neighbors would take it. But, why get wrapped up in trying to find a solution?

          • Randy B.

            John, excellent points. Why do I care about overly zealous demands from neighbors about local restaurants, bars, and clubs? Because I happen to like going to them and think they serve a vital role in creating an active, engaging, and interesting community. I agree that such establishments should be respectful of their neighbors, and likewise believe that neighbors should be reasonable in the demands made of these local businesses. If the situation really is as serious as has been represented by some, I would happily endorse reasonable action to take corrective action, as noted from the outset.

            For context here, I happen to live a stone’s throw away from Steinbecks, MoJo, Kavarna, and UJoint, and if one of those places were to become an unhinged and rowdy hangout, I too would be concerned and seek to rectify the problem. At the same time, if a few highly-sensitive neighbors began to insist that not a sound leave those buildings after 10 at night, I would strenuously object as I very much enjoy those lively venues and have no problem living in a somewhat urban environment that tolerates a certain level of noise in the neighborhood.

            It is unquestionably a matter of balance. To their credit, in more recent statements, it seems as though the neighbors seem to have limited the nature of their demands. I think that’s commendable of them. I wish them well.

  • Adam

    Here is an idea….. Don’t move next to a loud bar if you have a 3 year old. When I bought my house I purposefully did not buy in EAV even though I love the area. I bought on a dead end street in Edgewood. At some point the home owners need to take responsibilities for their actions. Morris’ was there long before they were.

    • Rick Derris

      I see. So Morris’s rights >>>> Neighbors rights to quiet enjoyment of their property. Or in legalese; the “Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment”.
      How long does one have to live on their property before they are allowed to complain? 5 years? 10 years? The fact that they’ve been there long before is irrelevant. The neighbors pay their taxes just like they do.

  • Jim

    Adam and Andrew,
    You don’t seem to grasp the fact that the Morris Lounge is not being operated in the same manner as it had been under the management of the late Mr. Morris senior. His sons now operate it and have worked hard to attract a crowd of loud, drunken, bangers who trash neighbor’s yards, yell and scream, rev their engines and do burnouts/doughnuts in front of the lounge, and everyone has the pleasure of listening to it all go down at 3-4AM every weekend.

    • Randy B.

      But all of these problems appear to be resolvable, as Andrew notes, by simply enforcing existing legal requirements. On the other hand, the solution demanded here strikes me as unreasonable. “Do not play the music so loud that it can be heard outside the building.” What law or regulation establishes such a strict standard of silence? This doesn’t strike me as a meaningful effort to reach a viable solution but instead an all or nothing ultimatum.

      • Robert Johnson

        The COA noise ordinance prohibits hearing sound more than 50′ from any establishment after 10 PM.
        Ant why is it unreasonable for the neighbors to want to enjoy their property rights in peace and quiet?

        • Randy B.

          Robert, I never said it was.

          Now, a question for you: Given that Section 74-134(2)(b) sets the point of measuring the offending noise at 50 feet from the establishment, what legal basis is there for demanding that the noise not leave the “building”?

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