To open an independent boutique hotel inside Atlanta’s perimeter is a big deal. (There are precious few in the city, for reasons upon which no one can quite agree.) But to open an independent boutique hotel above Atlanta’s most legendary strip club? Yes, that’s a big deal indeed.
Hotel Clermont is not shy about its building’s roots or the tenants on the basement level. Rather, it embraces its address—which, for most of the past century, belonged to the Clermont Motor Lodge, a seedy sleepover spot in the Poncey-Highland neighborhood. (Al Capone is rumored to have used it as an occasional hideout.) The below-ground floor became the Clermont Lounge in 1968, and it remains the only spot in town where many of the dancers have been performing longer than most patrons have been alive.
During renovations, Hotel Clermont signaled its unreserved embrace of the past by erecting the motor lodge’s original signage and giant radio tower on its roof. And if anyone still wondered if the anticipated new property might downplay its history, they needed only pay a visit after last summer’s grand opening. The lobby is a love letter to the hotel’s 1970s heyday, with low-slung couches, leafy houseplants, and palm-frond prints covering the check-in desk. The walls of the library lounge are hung with R-rated black-and-white photos of Clermont Lounge dancers, and biographies of Me Decade luminaries, such as Mick Jagger and John Lennon, fill the shelves. The ninety-four well-kept rooms have velvet headboards, lightbulb sconces, and record players; moody portraits by Atlanta College of Art graduate Sharon Shapiro nod to the women of the bottom floor.
Despite the hotel’s grand and gutsy entrance onto the Atlanta scene, its signature restaurant managed to upstage it. Tiny Lou’s, a French-American brasserie named for a burlesque dancer who disrobed here during the 1950s, has become a darling of food critics. The rich duck consommé! The first-rate service! The throwback dessert cart! Tiny Lou’s also earns serious points for being a unicorn in Atlanta’s food scene: a hotel restaurant where locals actually turn up.
On the rooftop of the six-story hotel, as far from the Clermont Lounge as you can get, the bar slings sidecar cocktails to crowds of twenty-somethings idling on lawn chairs. Some know they’re sitting atop a 1924 building that lives in Atlanta infamy. Some do not. But they all get that they’ve arrived at a happening boutique hotel where Atlanta’s cool kids flock, and that in itself is a pretty big deal.
789 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia • 470-485-0485 • hotelclermont.com
While You’re There
Ponce City Market
Hotel Clermont’s can’t-miss neighbor offers sixteen sprawling acres of shops, restaurants, fitness boutiques, and carnival games. Conceived by the developers who started New York’s Chelsea Market, Ponce City Market is located in a historic Sears distribution center and anchored by a massive food hall on the ground floor. Sample a Cuban sandwich from El Super Pan, shop for jeans at Ponce Denim Company, and take a sewing class at Top Stitch.
Stroll the BeltLine
Exit through the back of Ponce City Market and find yourself on the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, part of a pedestrian pathway that will one day encircle much of intown Atlanta. Follow it south, stopping for a coffee at Parish or a Patio Punch cocktail at Ladybird. Along the way, take in a linear photography exhibit showcasing Atlanta’s contributions to the civil rights movement. You’ll also encounter locals zipping around on everything from scooters to inline skates to hoverboards.
This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Southbound.