BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
The beat goes on for Smith’s Olde Bar – at least until the end of the year.
The watering hole/music venue/restaurant was threatened with vacating its Atlanta strip mall locale, where it has hosted hundreds of concerts for 23 years, when the property was put up for auction Aug. 28.
But prior to that deadline, Dan Nolen, owner-operator of the venue on Piedmont Avenue in Morningside, was able to renegotiate with the current landlord, the family of original owner Beverly Taylor, to keep Smith’s and Nolen-Reeves Music office intact until at least Jan. 1. Taylor passed away earlier this year at the age of 97.
“Our whole thing was to stay there long enough, assuming the building sells, to see if whoever our new landlords are will be interested in keeping Smith’s,” Nolen said Wednesday afternoon. “We haven’t heard yet if anyone has bought it, so we’re doing a wait and see, paying our rent and serving up a good time.”
Nolen said when news of the possible eviction became public in July, he was contacted by “at least” five different groups of developers who expressed interest in the property, but only if Smith’s would remain.
“We’ve certainly got our fans. We have a 23-year track record that we want to keep going forever,” Nolen said.
While he isn’t anticipating a move in 2016, should the new owners have other plans for the property, a historic building that is believed to be the first strip mall in Atlanta, Nolen has some ideas.
“There are some new developments in town that have approached us about if we leave, they’d love to have Smith’s. There’s a chance we’d go to Decatur. But that’s all speculation,” Nolen said. “Moving Smith’s would be like moving the Alamo! I’ve got a third of my life invested here. People have met their spouses here. We’ve helped bands achieve superstardom here. It would be very hard to take what we’ve got and duplicate it. But I don’t anticipate that being the case.”
Indeed, of the countless bands that have performed at Smith’s, many have escalated to great acclaim, including Kings of Leon, which played its first official show as a band at the venue , John Mayer and Widespread Panic.
Nolen expects the new owners to be in place by November, at which point he will negotiate a new lease to solidify the future of the venue.
“Right is might and we prevailed,” he said. “We’re staying and hope that we’re here for a long time to come.”
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