I was dismayed at the brief Atlanta Journal-Constitution story Friday announcing that the long-established Zesto's on Piedmont Road will close Sunday.
The Livaditis family, owners of the landmark fast-food restaurant that has served ice cream cones and burgers to generations of families, said that labor shortages and "loitering problems" led to the sale of the site at 2469 Piedmont Road to an undisclosed buyer. The Splash laundromat and Fiesta Foods grocery store were also part of the deal.
That a family with deep roots in Atlanta has to sell a beloved business is shocking. I assume that "loitering issues" mean homeless men badgering customers. The Atlanta police and social service agencies have failed a beloved Atlanta business and its customers.
Zesto's is located in a transitional part of Piedmont with a nondescript mix of fast-food places, bars, strip clubs, convenience stores and car-repair places. Homeless people have set up camps in the area. It's sad that Zesto's will close after years providing dining pleasure because people no longer feel safe going there. An Atlanta institution is the victim of the city's inability to alleviate homelessness and prevent criminal behavior.
The family last year closed its well-known restaurant on Moreland Avenue in Little Five Points after a tree fell on the building. Two Zesto's remain in the city.
Zesto's is not the only business whose customers feel threatened. In New Orleans, Starbucks announced it will close its location at the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street because of "security problems," according to the New Orleans Advocate-Times Picayune.
I shook my head in disbelief at the news: Canal Street used to be New Orleans' most prosperous thoroughfare. For years, I took the streetcar down St. Charles to that corner, excited at the swirling crowds as I headed to the nearby French Quarter.
Atlanta and New Orleans have failed as cities if people feel fear rather than joy at public places.