ATLANTA - There have been some personnel changes at the Atlanta Police Department after a number of gay bars in Midtown were erroneously closed this past weekend, at the close to the Black Gay Pride festival. Wednesday, the shift commander who shut the bars down has been pulled from that duty.
Surveillance video from Ten Restaurant and Bar shows a large police presence trying to manage a big crowd late Sunday night. Shortly after Ten was closed, Blake’s, G, and 10th and Piedmont, all in the same Midtown block, were erroneously closed at 12:30 instead of 2:30 a.m., which had been approved by the city. The mistake was later confirmed by the police department.
It was a tough economic pill for the four gay bars closed during Black Gay Pride weekend considering no other bars were forced to shut down.
"It was odd. I don't understand why it was just this corner. I'm not sure. I feel like it was discrimination in some form or fashion, I see that," said Doug Craft, the bartender at Blake’s.
Atlanta Police told FOX 5 News the Zone 5 watch commander who ordered the early closures has been reprimanded, moved off his shift to another duty in another zone.
"The fact is he made a mistake. There were actions he could have taken and the chief believes he should have taken before asking these bars to shut down," said police spokesperson Carlos Campos.
Campos said there were no indications the lieutenant involved set out to act in a discriminatory manner.
One of the employees at one of the bars, who did not want his name used, told FOX 5 News he tried to explain to the responding officer they were allowed to stay open.
"We went to their website and printed the APD regulation. It's in the law that for holidays that fall on Mondays and those days a restaurant can stay open until 2:30 a.m.," he said.
Atlanta Police insist it was an oversight from the shift commander who could have checked further before closing the bars, pointing out that the lieutenant who was reprimanded is an openly gay officer.
"We try to reflect the community that we serve and it helps to understand the diverse communities," said Campos.
Campos also said the officers who responded to the large crowd did not physically escort anyone out of the bars. He said the bar managers cooperated in closing their establishments.