I’m off today as usual, but I came across this piece I wrote for the Constitution 28 years ago in the archives and thought any Dogs fans who were in the Classic City around 1983 would get a kick out of it. It originally ran Sept. 23, 1983, with the headline, “Bulldogs at play: Where to party in funtown Athens.”
Several things strike me about it now: Much has changed, especially the prices. Also, we thought two dozen nightspots was a lot back then; now it seems like there’s that many bars and clubs in one block of downtown Athens. The Normaltown Flyers and Dirk Howell are still around, but I think the only surviving nightclub mentioned is the 40 Watt, and it’s long since moved to a different location. Man, I miss T.K.’s.
Anyway, I remember my brother Tim helped me do the legwork for this piece; I don’t think I exactly had to twist his arm. Think of it as an Athens time capsule. And for those who around UGA back then, I hope it brings back some good (if hazy) memories. …
ATHENS — This home of the University of Georgia is a partying town. Especially after football games.
Bulldog fans searching for post-game celebration can pick from well over two dozen nightspots in the Classic City. The entertainment includes balladeers, rock, country, new wave, oldies, jazz, strippers and disco. Places reserved for nothing more than serious elbow-bending are numerous, too.
On game weekends it’s best to arrive before 9 p.m., to avoid the rush. Also, bars in Athens stop serving at 1 a.m. on Friday nights and midnight on Saturdays.
Around half of Athens’ clubs are in and around the city’s charming downtown. Adequate parking is available at most if you get there early.
A good place to start a barfly’s tour of Athens is T.K. Harty’s Saloon (549-5052, 95 Hoyt St.). Located in a restored railway station a few blocks north of downtown, T.K.’s is the oldest nightclub in town now that the Last Resort, a legendary club founded as a coffee house in the mid-’60s, has closed.
The nicest thing about T.K.’s is the deck, where balladeer Bruce Chrichton accompanies himself on acoustic guitar. (He also plays before the game on football Saturdays). Beer ranges from $1.25 to $2.75 for a pitcher, mixed drinks are $1.50. A lot of students congregate here, but it’s actually one of the more sedate spots in town.
On the edge of downtown in the History Village hotel complex is another club located in a restored building. It’s called Bixby’s (546-0410, 295 E. Dougherty St.) and the stone and brick walls are remnants of the old Athens Steam Co. A small room decorated with lots of hanging plants, it features the jazz-pop of Bystander, an Augusta group. Beer is $1.25-$1.50, mixed drinks are $2.25-$3 and the crowd tends to be older.
A more raucous time can be had nearby at the Mad Hatter (549-4046, 450 E. Hancock Ave., in back of the Athens Flea Market). This place has a large disco dance floor, a small lounge equipped with large-screen TV and a 1,200-capacity ballroom in back (with one wall painted red and black and decorated with a Bulldog banner). Sidewinder will be rocking Friday and Saturday nights for a young crowd. Beer is $1.50-$1.75, mixed drinks are $1.75-$2.50 and there’s usually a cover charge.
Around the corner is the 40 Watt Club (548-9288, 382 E. Broad St.), mecca for Athens’ New Wavers but not exclusively devoted to that brand. In fact, this weekend the club features the country-pop-bluegrass harmonies of the Normaltown Flyers (one of Athens’ finest groups) and Athens rock pioneer Mad Dog Melton and his Dixie Grease (who might be familiar to UGA alumni from the late 1960s and early ’70s). Beer is $1.25-$1.75, mixed drinks are $1.75-$2.75 and there’ll be a $3 cover charge. Seating capacity is 200, but occasionally more than 500 folks have been squeezed in; don’t dawdle getting there.
The newest arrival on the Athens club scene is a familiar name to Atlantans: the Buckhead Beach (549-4921, 244 Oconee St.), located in what once was the B&L Warehouse. “After we sold the one in Atlanta,” said general manager Scott Hadly, “we were looking for a property and Athens just seemed a natural. We were drawing predominantly college age in Atlanta.”
This cavernous club, decorated with traffic signs and neon beer signs, has a raised dance floor, a long bar, a gameroom and bar in back and a very noisy college clientele. Capacity is 1,000, but it gets very crowded late in the evening. Beer is $1.50, mixed drinks are $1.75-$2.50 and there’s usually a cover charge. The Tams perform Friday at 9 p.m. and again Saturday starting at 6 p.m.
The coldest beer in town (and the nicest atmosphere) is available at O’Malley’s (549-3306, 271 Williams St.). This is yet another restored building (an old mill), located right on the edge of the Oconee River. The club’s extensive deck lets you sit outside while the water rushes beneath you. Live entertainment is booked occasionally, but mostly you’ll find students drinking and dancing. Beer is 75 cents-$1.25, mixed drinks are $1.25-$2.50.
Other attractions in the downtown area include Bourbon Street (546-6111, 247. E. Washington St.), a dimly lit club located in the basement of the Georgian Hotel and featuring all-nude dancing; the Frog Pond Lounge (546-8122, 513 W. Broad St.), a very small and extremely crowded room popular with the older crowd thanks to the vintage rock ‘n’ roll and country churned out by the two-man Dirk Howell Band; Daddy’s Dollar (543-6511, 230 N. Finley St.), a typical hotel lounge in the Family Inn featuring country-rock bands such as this weekend’s Joe & Tony; and the restaurant Friends (546-7693, 247 E. Washington St.) in the Georgian Hotel, which occasionally books acts in the old hotel ballroom. Gamble Rogers will perform next Friday night and Mike Reid the weekend after that.
Baxter Street, climbing the hill beside the high-rise dorms near Sanford Stadium, doesn’t offer much in the way of live music. There are a couple of lounges: Harry’s (546-7716, 494 Baxter St.) and Papa Joe’s (548-3481, 740 Baxter St.). Harry’s occasionally features entertainment and Papa Joe’s is beer and wine only right now.
Heading out Broad Street (which becomes the Atlanta Highway or U.S. 29-78), you’ll find Armadillo Palace (543-8847, 2194 W. Broad St.). Neal James performs Friday and Saturday at this 1,300-seat country-rock club. Beer is $1.50, mixed drinks are $2 and the crowd tends to be older than at most downtown clubs.
Students and alumni alike gather at the Fifth Quarter (353-9422, 2260 W. Broad St.), a sports-oriented bar and game room run by former Bulldog player Craig Hertwig and started by another ex-Dawg, Wayne Swinford. There’s a pre-game barbecue and two buses take customers to the stadium and back. Next weekend, the Normaltown Flyers will perform. The seats for the tables out front are old red bleachers removed from Sanford Stadium a couple of seasons ago. Beer is $1.25-$1.50 and mixed drinks are $1.75-$2.50.
The Night Owl Lounge (353-9328) at 3155 Atlanta Highway is a wild and wooly country-rock club with almost as many patrons sitting on cars in the parking lot as are inside listening to the band. Riverstreet plays this weekend. Beer is $1.50-$1.75 and mixed drinks are $2-$3. A mostly non-student crowd packs the place.
If you don’t mind driving a few minutes, you can also hit: the J&J Center (549-7009, Commerce Highway-U.S. 441), a 500-seat country music dance club featuring David Wills this weekend; Foxz (546-8209, 1294 Prince Ave, behind Allen’s), a bar-dance club located where Between the Hedges used to be; Brandy’s (353-1904, Jefferson Road in the Homewood Shopping Center), a lounge in a steak and seafood restaurant featuring guitarist Perry Mac (who does a pretty fair Willie Nelson) and pianist Jim Sherman; and the Lighthouse (353-7206, Lumpkin Street at Five Points), a restaurant-lounge featuring the Jim McKillip jazz trio.
Hit enough of these places and you’ll begin to understand why some folks in Athens think a Ph.D. stands for Party hard, Dammit.
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