Teen events center "Da Lounge," located on Ga. Highway 138 in the Conyers Exchange shopping center where hundreds of teens reportedly gather on some weekends, is now re-opened after the city of Conyers lifted a "cease and desist" order issued last week.
Conyers Planning and Zoning Director Marvin Flanigan said the place appeared to be operating outside of its approved zoning district use.
"It appeared to be operating as a night club," said Flanigan. However, he said the cease and desist order had been lifted a few days after it was issued because there was no evidence to say it was a nightclub and no reason to prevent it from opening up. The club owners and their attorney had challenged the order.
Da Lounge was issued its business license in December 2009 and opened its doors in January as an events center for juveniles and their parents, according to co-owner Darlene Griffin.
The area, especially the parking lot in the Conyers Exchange shopping center between Da Lounge and Taco Bell, has been the location of several complaints and arrest over the last two months, according to Conyers Police Department and 911 dispatch center reports.
Those complaints and arrest include calls of a fight on Feb. 28 where the caller described seeing someone "stomped to the ground," an arrest of a juvenile for posession of marijuana with intent to distribute on Feb. 28, a discharge of a weapon complaint on Feb. 21, calls about crowd control and potential fire hazard on Feb. 27, an arrest of a juvenile for disorderly conduct on Feb. 7, and arrest of a juvenile for possession of marijuana less than an ounce on March 14.
An employee at the nearby Taco Bell said he’s seen hundreds of teens line up to get in on some weekends and that the teens "tear up" the lobby of the restaurant.
"The teens, after the club is over, they tend to want to hang out in the parking lot. A couple weeks ago, I had to run them out of the entrance because they were blocking the entrance to my drive through," said the employee. He wondered why there were not more police patrols seen in the area on weekend nights.
Griffin, who co-owns Da Lounge with Lanita Stewart, said she and her business partner opened the center as a community to provide a safe environment for families and teens.
The events themselves are organized by teens, said Griffin. One flyer for a CD release event at Da Lounge was entitled "Girls Gone Wild."
"Both of us are very family oriented," said Griffin, and both are parents of teens. "I’m a police officer so I always hear about incidents of kids loitering in the area here and there. We wanted a safe environment for them."
She emphasized that they had a "no tolerance" policy which included prohibiting drugs, alcohol, smoking, fighting and gang signs and that kids were escorted off the premises and to their vehicles or had their parents called if they violated that policy. Griffin added that there are security personnel at the business and that the events are supervised by herself, her husband, or her business partner.
She pointed out that they have no control over what the kids do after they leave the doors of Da Lounge. "If they go at it after they leave, we cannot control that," she said.
Griffin said they were trying to reach out to develop relationship with larger area churches, and would like to work with city and police authorities. "We would love for them to work with us. We would love for everybody to work with us. We’re all community type people."