This article was originally published in Prick Magazine, Atlanta's Only Piercing and Tattoo Publication, in April 2001.
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Scenes from the Cultural Side of Atlanta
This episode: The Honky Tonk's Blues
In mid-February I got a flurry of emails asking if the rumors that Dottie's was closed were true, or "Did you hear...?" type emails. Even worse, I got other emails saying the Clermont Hotel was going condo and the lounge was going to move, probably into the space currently occupied by Dottie's. As these are my two favorite dive bars on the earth, and have been for some 10 years now, I panicked and started investigating.
As you may recall, Dottie herself passed away in December. Apparently she held both the liquor license and the lease on the place, which is owned by Manuel Maloof's sister. After Dottie's death there was some family struggle over who should run the joint. Eventually Dottie's son, Ronnie, won the war.
Rumor has it the landlord doesn't care too much for Ronnie and used her influence to arrange a police visit. So on a Friday night in the middle of a show by Evil Twin the police came in the door asking about the club's liquor license. At the time, the liquor license was still in order so they couldn't do much, but during one of the bondage scenes the band performed on stage a breast was exposed so the police issued a citation for "operating an adult club without a license" and herded everyone out the door. The place was open the next day, but the citation put renewal of the club's liquor license in jeopardy.
To make matters worse, the landlord issued an eviction notice. Since there was no written lease (Dottie had been paying month to month) Ronnie didn't have a lot to stand on. But he got a lawyer and a hearing was set for late February. It has since been delayed until March 22. Unfortunately, this was past our print deadline so you'll have to swing by the club to see if they were successful in renewing the license and fighting the eviction, or delaying the hearing again.
"We'll be here until Jesus comes home!" said the bartender at a recent visit.
Dottie never made a business entity or trademark or anything out of "Dottie's" so if they lose the war the new tenants could open up a taco stand or anything else they want and still call it "Dottie's." But changes have already started at the place. The video poker games have already been removed and some minor renovations to the building have been done. The booking agency, Pink Torpedo Productions, distanced themselves a bit after the cops shut down the Evil Twin show, though the bands they'd already booked continue to appear on most nights. In fact, there was a fantastic show that was going to be the end-all beat-all grand finale, with The Moonshine Killers, Gettin Headstones, The Memphis Morticians, go-go girls, and a birthday party for one of the bartenders.
Due to poor advance notice the attendance wasn't what it should have been, and since then the hearing was delayed so things continued, somewhat chaotically, in limbo.
Meanwhile, the owner of the Clermont had also passed away. There was a family feud over control of that establishment as well. Rumors that the place was going condo have been around almost as long as the Clermont itself. But with Atlanta's current condo craze and gentrification wave, coupled with the family struggle over control, the rumors were believable. Fortunately for those of us that like the place, they're not true. After settling out of court, Kathi retains full control of The Clermont Lounge and the hotel will stand as-is.
In addition, they've gotten their hands on the lease for Dottie's. They plan to do some renovations on the place, but basically keep the same flavor, and same name. Dottie's will have still have live music and function as the neighborhood dive. But Ronnie has to get out of the way first. Things don't look good for Ronnie.
Rumor has it Ronnie cannot hold the liquor license himself, as he's a convicted felon. He's a nice enough guy, and would make a perfect fit for the rough-and-tumble joint, but it doesn't sound like the odds are good that he can fend off the somewhat-hostile takeover forever. It's probably only a matter of time before he's out and the Clermont takes over.
As much as I've loved Dottie's for the last 10 years, it needs competent management to return to it's glory days, and if I was going to pick an organization I wanted behind the establishment it would be the fine folks at the Clermont. So hopefully by the time you read this the Dottie's situation has settled down, regardless of who's behind the bar, and the underbelly of Atlanta will be safe for a while longer.
At least until the place goes condo.
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