North Fulton nightclub owners adjust to new way of business

A 2017 image of patrons seated at the bar at Cigar City Club in Sandy Springs. Photo credit: JASON GETZ
A 2017 image of patrons seated at the bar at Cigar City Club in Sandy Springs. Photo credit: JASON GETZ

Three nightclub owners in north Fulton County have reopened for business — utilizing outdoor spaces and reducing customer numbers allowed inside to keep everyone safely separated.

The clubs were allowed to reopen June 1 as long as they comply with a set of 39 mandatory measures, including limiting their clubs’ capacity.

Cigar City Club owner Julius Bolton said the closure of his Sandy Springs club during the pandemic was devastating to the business.

In addition to regular cigar smokers, 15 percent of his customers are non-smokers who come to the Sandy Springs club to mingle, dine and listen to live music.

Bolton reopened Cigar City Club on June 4 with limited occupancy to start the road to recovery and provide some income for returning staff. About half of his 22 employees are back, he said.

“We were getting calls from members (and patrons) the whole time that we were closed wanting to know when we are opening,” he said.

The threat of coronavirus has put a heavier emphasis on ventilation in indoor spaces and the need to keep customers separated. To comply with state guidelines for reopening, Bolton removed some seats and tables to keep a safe distance between customers. He also added some tables outside in a roped-off area of the parking lot.

“It’s not an ideal situation and I’m not going to make any money until this thing is lifted,” he said.

David Kamran, co-owner of Chaplins restaurant and karaoke bar has made use of his outdoor patio by moving the karaoke singing outside.

Kamran estimated his business has dropped nearly 40% since he reopened June 1. Before the pandemic, karaoke singing took place five days a week, ending at 2 a.m. It’s now offered only on Fridays and Saturdays, 8-11 p.m., ending earlier due to the noise ordinance in Roswell.

Chris Dauria, owner of Johnny’s Hideaway in Buckhead, said many of his older patrons have been returning to the club during the week when it’s less crowded. Only 16 people are allowed on the dance floor at a time, he said.

Patrons want to mingle at the club and are not yet used to staying seated at their tables if they are not dancing, Dauria added. Johnny’s has a capacity of 265 people but for now Dauria allows only 95 inside under the state guidelines.

“I’ve been to some establishments and they are not doing anything for social distancing,” Dauria said. “It’s like the wild, wild West at some places. We’ve been open for 41 years and to me what they are doing is short term thinking to blatantly not do what’s required.”