View From a Cop: The Crazy City Nightlife of the '70s and '80s

One Friday night a bouncer, who looked like a starting left tackle for the Steelers, came out with a little biker dude on his back, hitting him on the head...with what was left of the pay phone.

For those six or seven of you who are from Sandy Springs, you might remember how different it was in the late 1970’s and early '80s.

It was a single person’s paradise or married-lying-about-being-single paradise.

The best shift to work in patrol was the morning watch. You came in at 11 p.m. and got off at 7 a.m. It was probably the only shift most described as “fun.” If you liked crazy people; people who act crazy;  people who act crazy when they drink; or any other combination of elements that make folks go into La-La Land.

The morning watch was the best place to be. I don’t think I ever took a sick day.

The bars closed at 4 a.m. Starting at about 1 a.m., the Buckhead club patrons would spill into Sandy Springs. Confetti’s was just inside the Atlanta City Limits on Roswell Road. An after-hours bar called JWV’s was tucked in just off Roswell Road. They didn’t serve alcohol but did serve expensive set ups for the patrons who brought their own drink of choice.

JWV’s would get going about 3 a.m. until about 7 a.m. It was like a small DMZ inside. There were hookers, pimps, druggies, drunks, and cops. Everyone stayed within their own crowd.

There were a number of Sandy Springs bars and clubs. Northwood Drive used to be Copeland Road back in the days when English was the spoken language. As you pulled in, on the left was a small shopping area.

Copperfield’s Bar sat on top of a small but very good high-end restaurant called the Beef Cellar. The Beef Cellar kept late hours so the Copperfield’s patrons could simply walk or stagger downstairs. Although low key, it wasn’t a dive. The food was great.

If you went south and across I-285, on the left, just past Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Flynn’s was located in the building where Charlie Mopps is now. Flynn’s was a bar where the weak and sick were eaten. We answered a lot of fights there. We answered a fight call one Friday night and as I walked in, the bouncer, who looked like a starting left tackle for the Steelers, came out with a little biker dude on his back, hitting him on the head, without much success, with what was left of the pay phone. It looked like a rodeo.

Flynn’s later became Baker Street. Baker Street lasted for a while until money problems forced a quick closing. What was left inside was locked in. Later, we worked a burglary where someone made a hole in the back wall. The only thing missing was the band equipment. (Sounded like a recovery effort not well planned out.) I’m not sure how that ended up.

Across the street was Good Ol’ Days. I worked security there on Friday nights for a while. It was literally the good old days when they paid cash with no 1099.  The college kids used to play pool on the tables for money. The unwritten rule was that you paid you bets out of view and not on the table. Any money on the table was confiscated and converted to tips for the waitresses.

Later, across the street, they opened American Pie. That’s a whole other chapter.  

Down the road just before Abernathy, where the Pep Boys is now, was a bar called “Reflections” that later became “Scooters.” Scooters was dubbed a video night club because MTV had just signed on the air and videos were a big deal. I used to work this club on “Nickel Pitcher Night” meaning “The Fights Start at 10 p.m. Night.” The basic problem with “Nickel Pitcher Night” is two-fold: You don’t need that many people drinking that much beer in a short amount of time. (See: Reasons drunk guys fight.) Plus, you need to purchase hundreds of pitchers. Failing to do number two caused the above drunk guys to fight.

It was fun though. We had a bet, amongst the cops that worked the door, as to who could collect the most fake ID’s. Granted, a large number got through but I had over 150. Some were good but some were just pitiful. Xeroxed copies with cheap lamination would get you banned for poor taste. Scooters later became the Pavilion, which was an event facility.

A couple of exits west on I-285 was another bar area at Powers Ferry Landing. Flanagan’s, now Mardi Gras was a popular bar. Across the parking lot was Charley Magruder’s and across from that was another Copperfield’s. Magruder’s was eventually tagged as a biker bar although I think it was more of a “rock and roll with some bikers who like to hang out bar.”    

The thing I hated most about Magruder’s was that those, who were actual bikers, were never the problem. The wannabe bikers were always the ones who:

  1. Got drunk
  2. Shot their mouth off
  3. Got into a fight
  4. Found out they couldn’t fight
  5. Got beat up
  6. Got locked up

One thing I quickly learned about those who were real bikers: When they did fight, no one calls the cops.

One late Saturday night, an outside person violated the fight code and called the cops. Myself and another officer answered the call. The fight was in progress in the Magruder’s kitchen. It was us, two guys in the fight, and about 50 people, either bikers or those who liked looking like bikers, standing around wondering why we were there.

Normally in a fight, when the cops get there, the loser usually went to the hospital and the winner went to jail. On this night we figured it was a draw and found no reason, much to the delight of the 50 could-be bikers standing around, why anyone should go to jail. After all, you can always sew up a split lip and why piss off 50 people, who looked like bikers, on their 12th Jack Daniels?

In short, nights were a blast on the beat in Sandy Springs. It was full of every kind of dysfunctional personality you could imagine and was like going to the zoo every night. It was fun but it was a young man’s game. It would be interesting to see some of the people who survived those years. We’d probably sit around and talk about hip replacements and grandkids. Maybe it’s best left to memory.



Val W June 17, 2011 at 09:03 PM
Oh, how this article takes me back. My BFF was a bartender in Marietta and when she got off, we hit Timothy Johns, Copeland's and of course the Cellar. We were of age (barely) and we had the greatest time in that neighborhood, along with the JWV experience when we ran out of places to go. Proud to say we are both in our 50's now, not quite as rowdy, but remember the days fondly. Thanks for the article, your perspcetive had to make us seem hilarious.
Adrianne Murchison June 17, 2011 at 10:22 PM
Val, I told Steve that I remember those days too! Great, fun memories. Thanks for your comment!
Sharon September 05, 2012 at 02:15 AM
OMGosh! That brought back LOTS of memories...
chuck masek May 22, 2013 at 01:38 PM
Great stories! I myself worked at Baby Does Restaurant back in those days! That bar on the lower floor was a crazy place too! After we would get off work, we'd head right over to Copperfields than Charlie Magruders! At Magruders,The girls and guys looked alike with their mullet haircuts!Many a fight started from cutting in line with quarters on the pool table! Later, we would end up at The Beef Cellar! Killer Escargot and sauteed mushrooms!Than late night into Atlanta to Weekends, Club Rio, Limelight and all those night clubs! I lived in Sandy Springs right behind Good ol days! And I remember people going into the men's room and buying condoms than filling them with water and throwing them at the people at American Pie! They even had a lifeguard tower at American Pie to try and catch people causing trouble! Rumor had it, that someone threw a water balloon condom at a passing cop car and that was the end of that! Thanks for the memories! :)


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