Belt­Line trails, high-rises rais­ing the bar on LGBT es­tab­lish­ments

Devel­op­ment boots out Jun­gle, brings new cus­tomers to Ans­ley Square

GA Voice - - Front Page -

By DAL­LAS ANNE DUN­CAN

It’s no se­cret that real es­tate in At­lanta is boom­ing. Con­struc­tion on the Belt­Line and res­i­den­tial high-rises com­bine forces to make ma­jor changes to At­lanta’s LGBT cul­ture.

The lat­est ca­su­alty is Jun­gle, one of the tri­an­gle of bars defin­ing gay nightlife on Cheshire Bridge Road. Af­ter 13 years, owner Richard Cher­skov an­nounced via Face­book that mid-Novem­ber will mark the fi­nal cur­tain.

“I’ve tried ev­ery­thing to con­vince our new build­ing own­ers to re­new our lease, but the fact re­mains that they feel our busi­ness is not com­pat­i­ble with the new apart­ments they are build­ing next door. Cu­ri­ously, they have de­cided not to give us an ex­ten­sion dur­ing con­struc­tion. I un­der­stand de­vel­op­ers have a right to de­velop, but it still stings,” Cher­skov’s state­ment said. “Nightlife has changed so much in such a short time, but some things re­main com­fort­ingly fa­mil­iar: the pound­ing mu­sic, the vi­brant per­form­ers and the thrill of the chase.”

He en­cour­aged Jun­gle pa­trons to con­tinue sup­port­ing all forms of At­lanta nightlife, bit­ter­sweet ad­vice com­ing from the fa­vorite club.

Jun­gle isn’t the only club fac­ing dif­fi­cul­ties re­lated to devel­op­ment — the owner of The Model T, a LGBT bar lo­cated in the Ford Fac­tory Lofts next to the Belt­Line’s van­guard, Ponce City Mar­ket, fears that ris­ing rent costs com­bined with a slow cus­tomer sea­son could force them out. Model T’s di­rect path­way ac­cess to the Belt­Line is cut off due to con­struc­tion on the new Kroger next door.

“I hate to hear that Model T is hav­ing prob­lems, and hope­fully a lot of the ex­ist­ing busi­nesses along the Belt­Line won’t get dis­placed as rents go up,” said Don Hon­newell, gen­eral man­ager of Burkhart’s.

Ad­dress­ing the po­ten­tial

Though con­struc­tion has its crit­ics in LGBT bar own­ers, it also has fans, no­tably in the Ans­ley Square area off of Pied­mont Av­enue. There, Mixx and Burkhart’s back up to the Belt­Line trails, and sev­eral gay bars in that shop­ping cen­ter are in the midst of ren­o­va­tions to at­tract more cus­tomers ar­riv­ing on bike and on foot.

“I could see the po­ten­tial way back in the early part and I’ve been thrilled about it. I think it’s the best thing to hap­pen to At­lanta in many, many years and that’s ex­cit­ing, to see the Belt­Line just tak­ing on a life of its own and see how the com­mu­nity is com­ing to­gether more and more,” Hon­newell told Ge­or­gia Voice. “How it might af­fect Burkhart’s, I’m look­ing for­ward to what­ever changes come. I look for­ward to this sec­tion of the Belt­Line be­ing de­vel­oped and I ac­tu­ally vi­su­al­ize down the road more and more of our cus­tomers us­ing the Belt­Line to get from ei­ther their apart­ment or condo or wher­ever they’re at. Be­ing able to come and en­joy them­selves and not worry about get­ting back home since they’re ei­ther walk­ing or bi­cy­cling, since we do serve al­co­hol — I’d much rather have our cus­tomers walk­ing and be­ing able to walk home.”

Hon­newell started im­ple­ment­ing the ren­o­va­tion plan about a year ago: re­build­ing taller fenc­ing to the pa­tio, im­prov­ing the over­all pa­tio at­mos­phere and cre­at­ing a bet­ter path­way to the Belt­Line.

“We’ve had in­creased busi­ness, but I’m not sure we could at­tribute it to the Belt­Line. Yes, to some ex­tent, be­cause we’ve had some guys come off the Belt­Line with their bi­cy­cles and we’ve been able to pro­vide a tem­po­rary area for them to chain them up, and then come in and en­joy food and bev­er­ages,” Hon­newell said.

Mixx, which re­cently adopted a new logo as well as a new look, re­did its front en­trance and bar, with up­com­ing plans to fully de­velop the out­door ter­race. Ac­cord­ing to its web­site, “the pa­tio will be de­mol­ished and re­built as a fully en­closed din­ing area. There will be a new smok­ing area. We will con­struct a large ter­race for out­side din­ing with ac­cess to the Belt­Line.”

The bar ex­panded its hours, aims to pro­vide Sun­day brunch and refers to its new im­age as “sort of a 21st cen­tury Back­street.”

Os­car’s and Felix’s are in a slightly dif­fer­ent po­si­tion than Mixx and Burkhart’s. They do not back up to the Belt­Line, but are vis­i­ble to folks who walk out the front of those bars to ex­plore the rest of Ans­ley Square.

“Ev­ery­body’s been talk­ing about mak­ing the front of theirs more pre­sentable,” said Chad McDaniel, gen­eral man­ager at Os­car’s, adding he’s been mak­ing strate­gic im­prove­ments to the pa­tio as well. “I’m anx­ious to see if we get a lot more foot traf­fic. We have seen a lot of new faces come through. I don’t know if it’s be­cause all the bars are do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Ans­ley bars stay­ing strong

“I do be­lieve that the peo­ple new to the Belt­Line, liv­ing and work­ing on the Belt­Line, are ex­plor­ing as I have and it’s just a mat­ter of time be­fore they ex­plore our pa­tio and our busi­ness, just be­cause it’s easy and right on the Belt­Line,” Hon­newell said.

Hon­newell said Ans­ley Square has been owned by the same com­pany for many years. He was un­sure of the ex­act pa­ram­e­ters of Burkhart’s lease in the shop­ping cen­ter, but as­sured Ge­or­gia Voice the busi­ness is “solid.”

McDaniel said Os­car’s is on a five-year lease. He said rents have not gone up for the bar ei­ther — “knock on wood” — but added in­creased rent does make sense if there are more new cus­tomers and thus in­creased rev­enue.

“We have a good re­la­tion­ship with our land­lord,” Hon­newell said. “The bars — Mixx, Os­car’s, Felix’s — they’ve been great in that they rec­og­nize and they ap­pre­ci­ate us as tenants. We pro­vide a good nightlife. … We’re spend­ing quite a bit of money mak­ing ma­jor im­prove­ments. We plan on be­ing here for a long time.”

Septem­ber 29, 2017

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