Beltline benefits local businesses

Opening a restaurant is never a sure thing. Every entrepreneur takes a risk on a new venture. Since opening our first of three restaurants in Inman Park 10 years ago, location has been key to our success. We have always believed in the vision of the Atlanta Beltline, and taking the risk to locate our restaurants alongside it has paid off.

What we’ve seen next to Kevin Rathbun Steak on Krog Street has been incredible. Even before the paved trail, people were using the Beltline to exercise, walk their dogs and get where they needed to go. Since the trail opened in the fall of 2012, it’s been a revelation. We see thousands of people on the trail every day, with up to 10,000 people a day on weekends. Many of those people have become customers.

The pedestrian traffic has been so great, we renovated the patio that faces the Beltline to attract more customers, and it’s working. Not only do we get more customers dining with us, we also have more people stopping in for drinks and light snacks. Our story is not unique. Businesses up and down the Eastside Trail are opening their doors to the Beltline, investing in new connections and entrances to attract customers.

This trend will likely continue and accelerate as new apartments and commercial and retail spaces open over the next several years. Neighborhoods that were once rough around the edges are coming to life with new residents, businesses and activity that would have been hard to imagine just a few short years ago. With Ponce City Market and other major developments opening in 2014, the Beltline and its resulting economic activity continues to attract local residents and visitors from around the metro area and beyond.

While the Eastside Trail has been good for business, it is also a fantastic amenity for the public. It is making Atlanta healthier by promoting walkability and creating public space that enhances social interactions. People from every age and ethnicity use the Beltline, making real the vision we had for this project from the beginning.

When we opened Kevin Rathbun Steak seven years ago in Inman Park, we never could have predicted the transformation of the abandoned rail corridor next door. We knew something good would happen. But the thousands of people who walk and cycle past the restaurant on a daily basis are proof that the Beltline is working for residents, visitors and businesses like mine.

We believe the BeltLine is just in its infancy in terms of opportunity for business, the community and the city. We can’t wait for the trail to extend south next to Rathbun’s, another of our restaurants, and beyond. Restaurateurs, small business owners and large companies are quickly figuring out what we believed from the beginning: that the Atlanta BeltLine will change the city and bring economic, social and public health benefits for generations to come.

Kevin Rathbun is an Atlanta chef and owner of four restaurants.