Ludacris's restaurant Chicken+Beer, named after his third studio album, has only been open a few weeks at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport -- but the rapper and actor from Atlanta says he hopes the concept will spread.
"Hopefully one day we'll have Chicken+Beers not only in airports around the world but just in different parts of the world, in cities," said Ludacris at a ribbon cutting Monday for the new Southern style eatery on the south end of Concourse D. "That's our overall goal."
That's in spite of the fact that it took years to open the restaurant. Chicken + Beer, which specializes in "Southern-style comfort food," was one of 152 restaurants the Atlanta airport contracted for in a massive round of concessions deals awarded in 2012. It is the second-to-last location to open from that round of restaurant contracts.
Plans for the restaurant were put on hold after Southwest Airlines pulled out of Concourse D and consolidated its flights onto Concourse C, according to Daniel Halpern, CEO of Jackmont Hospitality, which partnered with Ludacris for the restaurant. Jackmont is owned by Halpern, former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson's widow Valerie Jackson, and the Jacksons' daughter Brooke Jackson Edmond.
"It has been a long time coming," Ludacris said. When working on the Chicken-N-Beer album, which was released in 2003, "never in a million years did I think that it would be a restaurant inside this airport."
Ludacris, whose real name is Chris Bridges, is no stranger to the Atlanta airport and its many areas of influence.
"When I moved out of my father's place when I was 18 years old, I moved, like, right off of Riverdale Road. And I heard that the airport was expanding,and through the grapevine I heard that if you moved into this apartment complex, that sooner or later they would be offering people money to move out, because the airport was expanding," Ludacris said.
"A year or two later, they asked us -- I won't disclose the amount of money that they tried to offer everybody to move out, but that was my first business plan," he said, to laughter and applause at the ribbon-cutting event "It's funny how things come full circle."
Chicken+Beer replaces Passports Restaurant & Bar, a generic eatery that Jackmont operated while the new restaurant was in development.
The site at the end of Concourse D lacks the foot traffic that airport restaurants benefit from when they are located in the center of a concourse. But, Halpern said he hopes travelers will seek out the restaurant when going through Hartsfield-Jackson.
Halpern's company also operates One Flew South, an upscale restaurant on Concourse E, and three TGI Fridays at Hartsfield-Jackson. He called Ludacris "a business man who happens to be a great entertainer."
Chicken+Beer, like One Flew South, is a "chef-driven" restaurant concept, Halpern said.
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