Seafood restaurant submerged in undertow of menace

by Jordan Green

Atlantis Café opened with great fanfare in 2002, its owners promising superb international cuisine with a thematic and culinary focus on Greece. Its fake palm trees, elaborate façade molded to look like a wilderness rock outcropping and textured columns suggest a scaled-down Acropolis off the High Point Road exit of Interstate 40 and across from the towering Koury Convention Center.

With customer reports of uneven service and the restaurant’s irregular hours of operation over the past four years, Atlantis’ reputation as a dining establishment has been eclipsed by an alternate identity as a nightclub catering to a late-night hip-hop clientele. A sign outside the restaurant still advertises a $12.99 special for all-you-can-eat shrimp and fried fish, but most business appears to be transacted hours after the six-to-eight dinner rush.

Atlantis Café and its owners, the Hanhans, have been challenged by financial difficulties, run-ins with the criminal justice system, and troubles with law enforcement. The latest episode is a visit by a division of the NC Department of Justice on in response to a complaint that the hired muscle at Atlantis Café was not properly licensed.

The enforcement action was carried out on June 24 by Trent Jolley, an investigator with the Department of Justice’s Private Protective Services Section. Jolly is employed by the section’s field services unit and is assigned to Hickory.

Following up on a complaint that Atlantis Café had armed guards working illegally, Jolley observed that one of them was armed and called the Greensboro Police Department for backup at around 10 p.m., said Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, in a written statement.

Three security guards were charged with violating North Carolina statute by working armed while not being properly registered or trained, Talley said. Law enforcement officers seized two .40 caliber automatic weapons and a Taurus .38 revolver. The three security guards are Richard ‘“Juice’” Adkins, of Greensboro, 30-year-old Herbert Eugene-Francis Walker, also of Greensboro, and 41-year-old Anthony Jerome Caldwell of Winston-Salem. Jolley spoke with the owner and manager of Atlantis Café to explain the violations, Talley said.

Police officers who spoke to YES! Weekly about the enforcement action stressed that the department was there in a supportive role to the Department of Justice. Talley said a Department of Justice investigation is continuing, but did not elaborate on the nature or scope of the state law enforcement probe.

At least one of the security guards, Caldwell, has been formally charged, and is scheduled to appear before a judge in Guilford County court on July 24.

The bust by Private Protective Services Board is only the latest of the venue’s law enforcement troubles.

In April Atlantis Café’s alcohol license was suspended for eight days and the club was fined $800 by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission ‘“on charge of failure to keep the licensed premises clean, arranged and well lighted to allow ready access and observation by law enforcement officers.’”

Law enforcement has been called to Atlantis Café over the past 12 months in response to a variety of complaints including discharging firearms, shootings, cuttings and stabbings, narcotics law violations, armed subjects, fights and public disorder disturbances. In some cases the police deemed the complaints unfounded; in others they took down information or provided assistance, according to a calls for service log provided by the department’s crime analysis section.

The department recorded 81 calls to Atlantis Café between June 2005 and June 2006. In contrast, another High Point Road venue within three blocks that has showcased hip-hop acts over the past year, Alexander Devereaux’s, warranted only 28 calls from the police during the same period.

Annual reports filed with the NC Corporations Division indicate Atlantis Café as being owned by two men. Articles of incorporation filed on Aug. 28, 2000 for Entertainment Food Production, which shares the same address as Atlantis Café, lists Nabil I. Hanhan, 63, as the owner. Nabil Hanhan’s name is crossed out in the company’s 2005 annual report and his son’s name, 31-year-old Isa N. Hanhan’s is written by hand beside it.

Nabil Hanhan, who also goes by the name ‘“Billy,’” and Isa Hanhan did not make themselves available to comment for this story following multiple attempts to contact them.

Isa Hanhan took over ownership of Atlantis Café two months after his father pleaded guilty to tax charges filed by the NC Department of Revenue on March 17, 2005 in Wake County District Court. Nabil Hanhan pleaded guilty before Judge Howard Manning to one count each of aiding and abetting Entertainment Food Production to embezzle $29,772 in North Carolina sales tax, $16,747 in Guilford County sales tax and $5,199 in state withholding tax from the wages of Atlantis Café’s employees, an announcement by the Department of Revenue stated at the time.

Atlantis Café collected the sales tax and withholding tax between December 2002 and May 2004, the court found. Hanhan was ordered to serve 60 days in jail and to make restitution to the state and county.

That was not the first time Nabil Hanhan admitted to a judge that he had committed the offense of theft. He had completed a two-and-a-half-year probation for a previous crime only a month before he pleaded guilty to the embezzlement charges.

In 2000, two days after incorporating Entertainment Food Production, Hanhan was caught with more than $20,000 worth of stolen cigarettes, according to Guilford County court documents. A state jury indicted Hanhan for willfully possessing the personal property of Thomas & Howard Co., a Greensboro wholesale grocery firm. Hanhan accepted a plea bargain on Aug. 19, 2002 and agreed to a ‘“community-based punishment,’” including $1,000 restitution to Thomas & Howard Co. Hanhan was sentenced to 30 months of supervised probation by Superior Court Judge Henry Frye on Aug. 19, according to court documents.

Nabil Hanhan has also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assault on a female and a separate misdemeanor charge of communicating threats in 2003. Court documents show that Hanhan paid $100 in court costs to resolve the matter.

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