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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) – Some city leaders are pushing to “Keep Atlanta, Atlanta” by protecting the city’s oldest businesses.

In a resolution filed Aug. 1, Atlanta City Council members Jason Dozier, Matt Westmoreland and Jason Winston took the first steps to create a program to protect and preserve Atlanta-based legacy businesses. The legislation asks the mayor of Atlanta Andre Dickens and Invest ATL to conduct a feasibility study of related business programs in other cities, with the aim of creating a similar program to protect businesses in Atlanta.

Councilman Jason Dozier acknowledged that many long-standing businesses in the city have been critical to creating Atlanta’s unique culture.

“These businesses are a big part of who we are as a city. We have a lot of programs around city residents, but we need to protect city businesses as well,” Dozier said.

A legacy business is typically defined as a business located within the city limits with 20-25 years of operation.

If the resolution is approved in the committee meeting a week after its initial introduction, a related business study will be carried out within a year. Existing programs in cities like LA, San Antonio, Birmingham, Seattle, and Birmingham will be reviewed. The analysis would help Atlanta create a similar program tailored to the city’s specific needs.

The legislation comes as local businesses have been closing amid rising rents, new development, and a change in commercial purpose in Atlanta. COVID-19 and rising inflation have amplified many of these challenges.

“I’m worried about removing it. I want to make sure that the Atlanta we grew up with can continue to be known by residents who want to have a place in this city,” said Dozier.

The study will also determine which operations qualify as a legacy business. Existing programs in other cities include restaurants, barbershops, clothing retailers, tattoo parlors and bookstores.

Brian Maloof, owner of Manuel’s Tavern, was optimistic about the possibility of help for local businesses like his restaurant.

“This has been the most difficult business cycle I’ve ever been through,” Maloof said. “I’m excited to hear that the city wants to step up and do something for us.”

Manuel’s Tavern has called Atlanta “home” for 65 years. Maloof feared the restaurant’s time would be cut short during the pandemic, but it was saved by thousands of donations from loyal customers.

Now he hopes the city can help as he faces higher expenses and fewer customers.

“Atlanta is not open yet. We still have tons of office space that is vacant,” he explained. “These are people who when those offices are full, and lunch or dinner time come here.”

Newer businesses may also benefit from a legacy program.

“It also encourages our businesses that are new to continue to stay with the city, to grow with the city, because they know that they have a place to land. There will be someone who will be looking for them in 20-30 years. Therefore, we have established the foundation for that,” Dozier said.

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