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Sean Keenan

Edgewood Avenue businesses grapple with car clubs, tightly packed parties

Tire tracks on Edgewood Avenue. (Credit: Anonymous)

By Sean Keenan

Edgewood Avenue, historic Sweet Auburn’s nightlife epicenter, has long played host to lively street parties that promise blaring music, fast cars and, sometimes, violence. Now, already faced with the challenges of reopening and running businesses amid a pandemic, some local bar owners and restaurateurs on Edgewood Avenue are fed up with what they see as a public health and safety hazard. 

Each weekend, almost without fail, hundreds of revelers zoom up to Edgewood Avenue to showcase their hot rods, racing bikes and speaker systems, sending plumes of smoke from squealing tires into tightly packed crowds and littering a memory — think tire tracks and garbage — of the excitement for business owners to find in the morning.

In recent weeks, too, the parties have served as the setting for violence, with eight people shot on the neighborhood’s bar strip in just six days last month. 

Now and again, Atlanta police will help the local business owners shut down the street to automobile traffic, but it seems that only shifts or delays the ongoing issue. And though those business owners have grappled with this dilemma for years, concerns that the gatherings could become breeding grounds for COVID-19 abound. 

Of course, Atlanta is not alone when it comes to worries of unsanctioned gatherings, which, some business owners have said, make it harder for them to safely serve food or drinks at night. But, it seems, other major cities haven’t discovered the silver bullet for the problem either. 

Unfortunately, most of the responses to street parties in places like Chicago and London, and to illegal car meets and racing in cities like Dallas or Dewitt, New York, involved the word “crackdown.”

In a time when tensions between police and citizens are high, one could argue that a barrage of arrests could spur more trouble — and, possibly, more violence. 

After street racers began taking advantage of Atlanta highways that had been practically deserted during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms kicked the tires of a plan to designate a special area for such activities

Additionally, Atlanta City Councilman Dustin Hillis proposed legislation that would punish organizers and even onlookers at illegal street racing events, although the ordinance pitch was put on hold as recent Black Lives Matter protests took off. 

Where Atlanta officials go from here as far as Edgewood Avenue is concerned, though, remains to be seen.

(Header image: Tire tracks left after nights of burnouts and donuts on Edgewood Avenue.)


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