July 2007 ends an era, as the last of the Atlanta bars in that adult playground that had become part of the city's identity closes it doors and the "Developers" take over. The city's former sin district - Buckhead Village - is no more. By September the razing of the empty buildings will begin and at the end of 2008, the homogonized and professionally bland will have completed sucking part of the soul out of our fair city.
When I first moved to Atlanta in 1998, I moved to Buckhead. It was vibrant and full of life, Friday nights the streets packed with people roughly my own age drinking and flirting and wandering the streets. True, few of them looked like me as I was black and they were other, but found place after place that let me wander in and spend my money freely. Drinks at the World Bar were $2. All of 'em. On Sunday night's Otto's looked like something out of music video. The Havana Club had a live Latin Band that jazzed up the place. The Backroom at CJ's Landing. The place simply known as Bar. Goldfinger's with the continous Bond films on loop in the basement. The rooftop decks and back alley stages and that little guy in the cart that sold $3 hambugers and $2 sodas at 3am and made a killing.
I had regular forays on Fridays at the now razed to the ground club Liquid Assets, a club that on a given Friday night would 1) let you in free 2) give away free drinks until 10pm and 3) serve a free breakfast buffet at midnight. Many an evening found me a friends with 20 or more to be drunk drinks on the table easing through another warm Georgia night. When I was "between postions" me and similar situationed friend spent many an afternoon after interviews in the Buck ensconsed in a little wine bar before we wandered down to Fellini's to finish off.
At it's height, the Village had over 100 businesses with liquor licences in less than a 4 block radius. I think I went into all of them.
Then things went downhill. The popular consensus was that the infamous incident involving Ray Lewis' friends started the downfall, but it began before that. And as much as I hate to admit it, we finally finished it off. And when I say we, I mean we as in the black people. At least the young black people.
Now we didn't start the problem, the area had always had issues - DUI, rape, assault. It was nothing to see five or six folks hauled off everynight. But one of the cool things about Buckhead in the late 90's was that everybody there, could get into everyplace there. However when "we" showed up, you would have thought the party was in the street. Underage patrons abounded and as far back as 2004 I stopped hanging in the Buck simply because of this. I still hit Mike & Angelos from time to time, but the Friday nights were a no-no.
Older brothers had been hanging out in Buckhead off and on for years. But the younger, wilder crowds eventually followed seemed to believe that sitting on the corner was preferable to actually going in anywhere. Provided they could get in. And their reluctance to leave an area once they realized they couldn't get in scared off patrons who might actually spend money. And so the clubs went away.
I hate to say it, but it's the truth. The change of club hours by the city in a blatantly obvious ploy to build up their own dying venue - the underground - was merely the final straw.
You can blame a certain degree of racism, but that's simply the world we live in. This not to say that all black people or gatherings do this, but once the standard is lowered, the downfall is inevitable. Even among black events. Freaknik. First Friday. We as a social group have a tendency to crowd and then overstay our welcome. And though the places we patronize respect our dollar - which is just as green as the next man - they're in it for the long haul, and we are a fickle bunch. See Shout, Twist, Dave and Busters, and so on. We come, party hard and disappear after having run off their other customers, and wonder why we get strange looks.
So bye Buckhead. Sorry about that. But we still have Midtown. For now. At least until Trump gets here.
Barkeep...gimme and old gin and tonic. For an old friend.