Donald B. Humphrey managed several nightclubs and bars in Atlanta in the late 1960s and 1970s. I’m flipping through his self-published 2021 memoir “A Life of Blessings And Then Some”. As with most self published memoirs, this one could have used an editor, but there are some interesting bits in the latter third of the book that cover the Atlanta drinking scene at the time. Humphrey died in early 2022, so there’s not an opportunity to ask for clarification on the details that aren’t so clear in the text.
Don got his start in Atlanta’s bar and nightlife scene running a topless bar behind the Loew’s Grand theater after retiring from law enforcement. He and his wife both managed operations there until the owner began taking money from their paychecks to fund his lifestyle, and they opened their first bar, Bottoms Up in the Georgian Terrace Hotel across the street from the Fox Theater. It was another go-go lounge, showing that Atlanta’s reputation for these sorts of bars isn’t a new thing (he also took over Kitten’s Korner at Peachtree and 6th, and you won’t be shocked to hear it was intended as competition for Atlanta’s new Playboy Club).
I’m including these details here just to share a glimpse into how far things have come in Atlanta and Georgia. I may write a larger, better researched piece later because this is all very interesting history to me.
Back in September I wrote a bit about Atlanta’s Old Fourth Distillery hitting the market. I was afraid that this news might mean that the distillery would close (and my Spidey-senses started tingling when they posted that the distillery would be closed for a few days after the sale notice went online), but they’re still open and released a new finished bourbon last month.
Atlanta’s Beltline project has driven some new developments in Atlanta, and the Lee & White warehouse redevelopment project near Adair Park is an example of the kind of thing that Beltline supporters hoped to see. This isn’t a real estate or urban planning blog, so rather than digging into those aspects of the development, I’m going to talk about some of the distilleries and breweries you might find there. Hop City calls Lee & White “Malt Disney”, and with three breweries, a bottle shop, a distillery, a kombucha brewery, and many restaurants and bars on site (along with open containers allowed on the property), it’s understandable.
The first stop on my distillery tour (here’s a full list of all the stops) was Old Fourth Distillery in Atlanta. Opened in 2014, they’re the first legal distillery to open in Atlanta in the post-Prohibition era. They’re in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, hence the name. Interestingly, they helped fund it in 2013 with a Kickstarter campaign, though with a low goal of $40,000 I think the crowdfunding campaign was probably more about marketing and outreach than raising funds, and I’ll have to remember that if I’m ever in the position of opening my own distillery.