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GA Voice - - Front Page -

hood bar, though it is LGBT-owned and was tra­di­tion­ally geared to­ward a gay clien­tele. In ad­di­tion to vis­i­tors from the nearby BeltLine, Friends also brings in over­flow cus­tomers from the down­stairs bar MJQ.

“It’s caused our clien­tele to be very, very di­verse, and that’s what we’ve al­ways wanted. We’re proud of the di­ver­sity of our bar. It is a neigh­bor­hood bar and we started out as a gay bar, and it has just started en­velop­ing more peo­ple and more peo­ple have en­veloped us,” Cov­ing­ton said.

What the de­vel­op­ment of Ponce City Mar­ket has done to af­fect Friends, how­ever, is al­ter traf­fic pat­terns.

“That has changed a lot of the traf­fic. The au­to­mo­bile traf­fic is ridicu­lous. It’s ab­surd. They built that thing, put in more busi­nesses and took away one lane of traf­fic for a bicycle path. I have not seen one per­son on a bicycle since they put that lane in there over a year ago and all it’s done is just cre­ated a night­mare at rush hours,” Cov­ing­ton said.

Friends has 23 ded­i­cated park­ing spots, but af­ter hours cus­tomers can park at the shop­ping cen­ter next door where Book­store Pub is lo­cated. There’s also street park­ing, which bugs the neigh­bors, but cus­tomers don’t have much of a choice.

“If you park over at the shop­ping cen­ter with Whole Foods, they’ll boot you. The boot­ers watch and see where you go and if you park over there and walk across the street to Ponce City Mar­ket, they’ll boot you. If you walk up this way, they’ll boot you,” he said.

Un­like Model T, Friends isn’t fac­ing un­usu­ally high rent in­creases, and Cov­ing­ton in­di­cated that the bar had no plans to go any­where. It’s in a multi-year lease and there is a good re­la­tion­ship be­tween Friends and the land­lord.

For her part, Darmer’s not giv­ing up yet. She’s sent ma­te­rial to her land­lord, try­ing to con­vince him of the his­tory, both LGBT and At­lanta, pre­served on the walls of her bar. She reached out to Ford Mo­tor Com­pany in the hopes of hav­ing them step in to speak with the land­lord about the im­por­tance of this build­ing. She also plans to speak with City Coun­cil and may­oral can­di­dates about Model T’s role in keep­ing the Ford Fac­tory Lofts a sta­ple for thirsty At­lantans. Friends on Ponce, a gay bar now mar­keted as a neigh­bor­hood bar, hasn’t seen a lot of di­rect ef­fects from con­struc­tion on the BeltLine and Ponce City Mar­ket. That might be dif­fer­ent had more res­i­den­tial ar­eas been built as orig­i­nally pro­posed. (Photo by Dal­las Anne Dun­can)

“There’s a lot of his­tory here and I think it’s so im­por­tant, es­pe­cially as the city grows. [The BeltLine] is sup­posed to rep­re­sent old rail­road tracks, right? And a new be­gin­ning for some things. I feel like they’re chok­ing that off,” Darmer said. “I don’t nec­es­sar­ily think me be­ing gay or a gay es­tab­lish­ment has any­thing to do with it, but I think it should be given con­sid­er­a­tion, con­sid­er­ing where we are. This is Mid­town.”

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