Atlanta can once again breathe easy, as the once Clermont Hotel – one of the city's most famous motor lodge and basement adult entertainment venues– has risen from the ashes and reopened as the Hotel Clermont, a 94-room boutique hotel.
Built in 1924 in the heart of the Poncey-Highland neighborhood, Hotel Clermont has long been a landmark for the city of Atlanta. The late Anthony Bourdain visited the famous Clermont Lounge in the basement of the hotel and declared that it should be a national landmark. Above the basement club, however, the old Clermont Hotel had fallen into disrepair before being purchased in 2012 by current owner, Oliver Hospitality.
It took the group six years, but today the destination has finally reopened. On the marquis above the lobby door, the Hotel Clermont signage reads "Everyone welcome. Enjoy your stay."
In celebration of the hotel's rebirth, here are five things to know about the all-new Hotel Clermont.
It wasn't always a hotel.
When the building itself first opened, it was as a multi-family residence called the Bonaventure Arms Apartments. The Clermont Hotel didn't come along on the property until 1939. The Clermont Lounge opened in 1968, and has been open through most of the hotel's history since. The hotel above the lounge operated continuously until Dec. 31, 2009, when it was ordered to close. Though it was ostensibly a hotel, at the time of closing 22 residents lived onsite full time.
It took a lot to refurbish it.
When inspectors called for the closing of the Clermont Hotel, the AJC reported in 2009 that "inspectors cited mold, bugs, water problems, damaged floors and ceilings, and other health hazards at the 85-year-old building."
The process of restoring Hotel Clermont was not simple. It involved six years of setbacks, lobbying efforts, historic credits and challenges at every turn. The refurbishing of the famous steel signage on the roof alone took six months, said Ethan Orley, co-founder at Oliver Hospitality.
"After my partner Phillip and I did the Oliver Hotel in Nashville, we found the Clermont. It was a case study, text-book real estate development opportunity. There's nothing else like it in Atlanta; no small local hotel in this area with the particular characteristics this hotel does. It's famous − iconic even − and there are very few famous hotels in Atlanta,” Orley said.
Hotel Clermont is not affiliated with the Clermont Lounge.
While the Oliver Hospitality team sunk millions of dollars into the property, the Clermont Lounge below retained its own independent ownership group, and operated without much worry about the happenings overhead. The only real changes to the Clermont Lounge were those required to upgrade safety, and to bring bathrooms up to fire code.
"We came into the project knowing the lounge was there. The city understands the lounge, and understands its place in Atlanta subculture and greater historical continuum. As far as we're concerned, it's an institution, and you don't mess with institutions," Orley said.
On the floors above, though, the scene has changed dramatically. The Clermont Hotel boasts attractions that will attract crowds totally independent of the club below, including the peacock-inspired lobby bar, the impossibly cool rooftop bar, and of course Tiny Lou's, the swinging French-American brasserie named for the famous gypsy dancer from the annals of hotel history.
The rooftop is awesome.
One of the biggest standouts at the new Hotel Clermont is The Rooftop, which offers one of the best views of the city around, along with faux-grass flooring, live sets of house music from local DJs, playful street food, cocktails and photo opportunities with that famous rooftop sign.
"When you see the level of the service, and the finishes, we expect you'll see this to be one of the premiere local boutique hotels in Atlanta. And, the view from the rooftop is killer,” Orley said.
The style is noteworthy.
The rooftop and everything beneath have a distinct design. The hotel feels like a time warp forwards into a future that borrows heavily from some dystopian (yet chic) past.
The restoration work at Hotel Clermont was done by Gamble + Gamble Architects, who pulled the bones back from the brink of collapse to offer a stately brick structure of historic value back to Atlanta. The style of Hotel Clermont was driven by New-York based Reunion Goods & Services, which bills its style as where "rock n' roll meets grandma's living room."
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