Posted Thursday, April 5, 2018 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Uptown Comedy Corner, a long-time mainstay in Atlanta, recently moved to Hapeville in an upgraded, fancier space.
The new location used to be the Castle seafood restaurant and is near both Delta Air Lines and Porsche headquarters on the edge of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and I-75.
The comedy lounge space, which has brick walls and two thrones left over from the Castle restaurant, seats 300 comfortably and more if there's a bigger headliner in town.
Hapeville mayor Alan Hallman said Uptown has been a great addition to the city.
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"They seem to be drawing good crowds and offering quality entertainment," Hallman said. "I haven't heard any complaints from residents. It looks like things are going well."
Like many small businesses, Uptown was a victim of development in a very hot part of town on Marietta Street not far from Mercedes-Benz stadium and Centennial Olympic Park.
The aging, worn-down 90-year-old building they had rented was a grocery store and an auto parts store decades ago. The kitchen was way too small, the bathrooms subpar and its neighbor a strip club. Uptown survived there for 12 years. Since Uptown left in late January, the building has been razed and developers are building trendier retail and living space for Georgia Tech students.
Efforts to find another spot in Atlanta proper for Uptown were for naught, said co-owner Craig Wilson, who is now retired but still helps out with marketing. They spent months hunting for new space in the city of Atlanta but anything available was way too expensive for their budget.
They were paying $10,000 a month on Marietta Street and didn't want to pay much more than that.
"We looked at T.I.'s old place and it was $18,000 a month," Wilson said. "A comedy club doesn't need three stories. It needs a showroom. Our new space has two showrooms and a clubby sports bar."
The new location has 21,000-to-22,000 square feet in total vs. 8,500 square feet in the old space (and 2,000 of that was not usable.)
Although Wilson said they are paying more than $10,000 a month in rent in Hapeville, they have more opportunities to generate income with the extra space. (They could even sub-lease some of the square footage.)
Uptown Comedy Corner first opened in the early 1990s in Stone Mountain, then moved to Buckhead for several years. It was an early hotspot for comics such as Don "D.C." Curry, Earthquake, Bruce Bruce, Chris Tucker and Kevin Hart.
Lee Moore, the day-to-day manager, said he's thrilled with the new space. "Hapeville is still centrally located. We have parking. It's better lit at night. So far, so good," he said.
Reviews of the new location have been largely positive. Sylvester Williams, in a Google review, wrote that "when you arrive you and are waiting for your show, you don't have to stand on the street and worry about getting hit by a car anymore. The inside is really nice. The sound system is great."
Freda Johnson said there is plenty of parking and liked the lemon pepper wings and drinks. "The variety of entertainment was awesome!" she wrote. "A must see for yourself."
Damion MrInappropriate Clarke, a local comic from Lithia Springs, appreciates the new space as well. "It's incredible, 100,000 percent better than the old one," he said this past Sunday.
Last weekend's headliner Henry Coleman, who has worked in the Buckhead and Marietta St. locations, calls the location much classier and appears to be drawing a more "upper scale clientele. They want to enjoy the show more than be a part of the show." The sound quality, he added, is top notch with the wood allowing the laughs to bounce back at him on stage.
He also likes that there's an adjoining lounge space for folks to hang out in before and after the show.
Wilson said Uptown's core customer base quickly figured out where the new space was and traffic is already comparable to what it was in the last space. He has a new chef and is planning to bolster the menu as well.
But he admits it's not an easy business to make money. "It's a restaurant with high overhead," he said, noting that headlining comics typically ask for $5,000 to $20,000 a week for five to seven shows.
Moore, the manager, said while the club is known to draw a predominately African-American audience, he is willing to book acts to broaden the club's audience diversity.