Downtown Athens Bars: Coming and Going

Matt Davis finally found a parking spot downtown, got out of his car, and went to get a drink with his old buddies before the University of Georgia v. the University of Tennessee game. Davis walked down Clayton Street toward his favorite bar, Gator Haters; he soon realized that like many of the bars downtown, it had been replaced. “I came back ready to grab a beer at good ole Gator Haters, but it was gone, along with some other bars I used to go to a lot. I guess it has been about ten years, but still,” said Davis.
Instead of Gator Haters, Matt found a new place by the name of Allgood Lounge. “Allgood is a cool place as well, there is nothing wrong with it, but I wish I would come back and go to the places I used to go,” said Davis.
According to reports, downtown Athens is filled with 40 different taverns and nightspots, making for a whole lot of competition for up and coming bars, such as The Hangover. Allgood Lounge, the bar that took the place of Gator Haters, has been working hard to stay in business and keep customers coming back, according to Ashley, a bartender at Allgood Lounge.
Bars don’t make it downtown for different reasons. Some of these include poor management, getting busted for selling to underage people, and the huge amount of competition bars have to stay on top of.
When asked about why she believes some bars have not been able to stay in business Ashley said, “A lot of it is poor management,” and that a lot of bartenders will “give away too much stuff.” This is definitely a problem for the owners of bars. In a young town filled with college students, young bartenders will often give friends free drinks, t-shirts, etc when they see them come in. This may be okay to do once in a while, but giving things away can add up fast.
One new bar that has come into downtown Athens very recently is The Hangover Bar on Lumpkin Street. Andy Barry and Nathan Scruggs are the two general managers at The Hangover Bar. The new bar is working hard to keep up with all of its competition and is trying to draw in the “big crowds,” according to Barry.
On why many bars downtown do not make it Barry said, “It’s hard to make it because of all the competition that is around and you have to be able to set prices where you can draw attention to your bar, have people come back, you have to make your bar fun, and you want the people to remember how much fun it was.”
One difficulty for many bars to finally get their doors open, or to have the problem of never getting their doors open, is attempting to obtain a liquor license. The Hangover Bar, according to Barry, had the most trouble with this when they were working to open up their bar. When asked what they had the most problem with, Barry said, “It was more getting the liquor license and getting every bit of paperwork done and ready so we could get our ordering in.”
However, Barry and The Hangover staff, have not had a big problem with the underage crowd trying to get into their bar illegally, as many downtown bars have had a problem with. “Our door guys keep a close eye out for it because they know if we get busted for it they also are getting in trouble for it with the law so that helps out with them making sure the IDs are legit and are not expired,” said Barry.
Many bars struggle staying afloat in a competitive place like downtown Athens. “The hard part is keeping your bar somewhat new and changing every month,” said Barry. In a place with so much of your business being college students, another struggle for the bars is in the summer months when the majority of students leave Athens and head back to their hometowns. “Also trying to keep open during the summer while most of your customers are students and many leave for the summer and then again it’s tough with all of the competition around you and there is always a new bar popping up,” said Barry when asked about the struggles of running a bar in the city.
Some bars have found success in this competitive city though. One of these is referred to as General’s. Chuck Allen, a former University of Kentucky student and now a high school football coach in Georgia, said that General’s was always the place he heard about in Athens while going to Kentucky. “I know people from Kentucky and other schools who had heard of General’s, and that is where we would go when we would come in town for the football games,” said Allen.
Gator Haters had one advantage that most bars downtown did not have, that Allgood Lounge is now taking advantage of. Most bars in the downtown area can become stuffy and hot with so many people in closed quarters. Allgood Lounge has a big open garage door type entrance to bring in good airflow. This is a huge advantage for nights after a big game when so many people go out downtown and want to have a good time, but also want to keep as cool as possible.
Bars that get good advertising through word of mouth, like General’s have been successful at staying in the game in downtown Athens. The Hangover which is “Hiring well,” and using the advantage of young management to serve a young crowd, also has high hopes for a bright future. However, having poor management and serving illegally to minors can lead to being yet another bar to not make it in downtown Athens.

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