R.I.P. Hoedowns

Hoedowns Atlanta. June 2007. Photo by me.


Interesting times we live in when yet another gay bar closes, this time Hoedowns and it wasn't the nasty disease of gentrification that put this horse down. Management problems, legal woes, negative publicity, community reaction and a whole host of other issues put Atlanta's only in-town country gay bar six feet under.

The Hoedown's motto was, "can't keep a good hoe down." Well, apparently you can't keep a bad hoe open either.

As of Monday the club is closed and there's no indication that it will reopen. The contents inside the darkened doors are headed for auction. The bar was facing eviction by the management of Midtown Promenade prior to the closure.

Messages posted on the Hoedowns' Myspace account allege that the bar is changing ownership and that it will reopen soon. It does seem unlikely that it will happen at the old location in the Midtown Promenade Shopping Center on Monroe Drive. Should it reopen it appears that it will have to find a new space.

Since changing owners the bar had drifted away from an all-country format in favor of drag shows and a mix of more typical dance music. Those changes had resulted in longtime fans of the bar to leave and a new crowd to take their place. Ben Elliot the manager and son of one of the owners had taken flack for the changes. Mr. Elliott's political contributions to GOP candidates and multiple lawsuits against him for his other business activities had brought even more negative attention to the struggling bar. It was not but just a few days ago that the headlining drag act,Charlie Brown, had parted ways with the bar. The major change in the cast of the drag show had signaled that the writing was on the urinal wall that Hoedowns' days were numbered.

Most recently a dispute between Ben Elliott and partial owner Roy Edward Howard over a missed loan payment led the Fulton County Marshall's office to execute a Writ of Possession order on the bar. The court document granted sole possession of the contents inside the bar to Roy Edward Howard. On Monday the locks were changed and the bar officially closed. Employees and patrons were given no notice of the closing and were left to wonder about the bar's future.

So now there is a void in Atlanta's gay nightlife scene. There is no gay country bar inside the Perimeter. The only other gay country bar in metro Atlanta is Stage Door located in Tucker. The closing of Hoedowns is the third Atlanta gay bar to close in 2007. The Phoenix closed when the owner died during a battle with the city over its' liquor license. Red Chair closed in March when owner Brad Williams moved the entertainment lineup to his other bar, Jungle off of Cheshire Bridge Road.

Ben Elliott had been a controversial figure during his short time on the Atlanta gay nightlife scene. It began in December of 2006 when he hired Shirley Q. Liquor to perform at a private party at WETbar. That decision has since lead to a feud in the Atlanta drag community that at times has been publicly nasty.

Ben Elliott told Southern Voice as his parting words to our city and community, "The next step is say goodbye to Atlanta — find a place to relocated to and get the hell out of Atlanta.”

As Mr. Elliott licks his wounds and runs off to some other city there are many in Atlanta's nightlife world that would like to tell him, "don't let the Downtown Connector hit you in the ass."