Bygone Bars

If we could time-travel, we’d drink at …

The Piedmont Hotel Bar

Shortly after the hotel’s 1903 opening, it was decried as a “cesspool of sin,” a reputation earned in part due to an opulent bar featuring a fountain with a Venus statue clad in a grape wreath and little else. The Piedmont, replaced in 1966 by the Equitable Building, hosted everyone from Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson to the Atlanta Pen Women literary society.
We’d time-travel to: October 1929, after extensive remodeling created a basement “grotto” to house the infamous fountain.
We’d order: Officially, a “draught beer,” permitted during Prohibition. Actually, we’d bribe a waiter to fetch a few fingers of whiskey from a saloon on Decatur Street.

La Carrousel at Paschal’s

Brothers James and Robert Paschal expanded their legendary West End soul food restaurant in 1960 with the opening of this nightclub, which drew loyal friends from the civil rights movement and national touring musical acts like Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone, and Dizzy Gillespie. Bunnie Jackson-Ransom, former first lady of Atlanta, recalls this as the kind of place where she wasn’t surprised to run into Aretha Franklin in the ladies’ room.
We’d time-travel to: December 1968, when a young John Lewis celebrated his nuptials with a rowdy after-party at La Carrousel.
We’d order: Rum and Coke with a twist of lemon. “That’s all we drank back then,” recalls Jackson-Ransom.

Club Rio

The place earned its nickname as Atlanta’s first “explosion-proof” nightclub because it was tucked into a former Luckie Street film vault. Initially launched with a Latin theme, it evolved into a diverse mix. Yuppies dominated the upstairs lounge, and New Wave types pogoed downstairs.
We’d time-travel to: March 1987, when then Mayor Andrew Young’s fifty-fifth birthday was celebrated by a crowd of 1,200 that included everyone from tycoon Steve Selig to drag queen RuPaul. Ooh, or maybe July 1988, when Rob Lowe visited Rio and picked up an underage girl and her friend for a spot of videotaped fun on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.
We’d order: An oh-so-eighties Sea Breeze.

The Stein Club

This scruffy dive at 929 Peachtree was known as Atlanta’s highest-IQ bar. “In 1961, as soon as I could legally drink, I went for a beer at the Stein Club,” recalls regular J. Richard Price. After serving in the Army, Price returned to find the club at the epicenter of the “Tight Squeeze: flower children, drugs, the Great Speckled Bird, scenes and smells and sounds I’d never seen in Atlanta.”
We’d time-travel to: The early nineties, when Sinéad O’Connor showed up at the club and rocked out during a punk-themed karaoke night.
We’d order: A beer—served in a personalized stein stowed behind the bar.

This article originally appeared in our June 2012 issue.