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.”