Starting this Saturday, a version of storied dining institution Dante’s Down the Hatch apparently returns to downtown Atlanta as a pop-up bar.
Part of Underground Atlanta’s three-night, 15-event Halloween blowout, “Down the Hatch” pops up on Saturday, October 30, starting at 9 p.m., with drinks, DJs, drag performances, and a dress code asking folks to come decked out in “Halloween chic” attire. There’s a $15 cover charge to enter.
“We dusted off the underground pirate ship and are bringing it back to life through our ‘Down the Hatch’ pop-up series,” Lalani Ventures creative director Kris Pilcher tells Eater. “It’s like a time capsule in there, and we’ve cleaned it up for a new generation to experience. We plan to host more pop-up events in the space for the holidays and beyond.”
“We do not currently have plans to bring back Dante’s Down the Hatch (the restaurant), we are simply cleaning up this Underground treasure and bringing it back to life for holiday pop-up events,” Pilcher adds.
It appears both Dante’s Down the Hatch and Down the Hatch are registered trademarks and it’s unclear whether organizers sought permission to use either for the pop-up or promotion.
First opened at Underground Atlanta in 1970 by the late Dante Stephensen, Dante’s Down the Hatch offered drinks, fondue, and live jazz encompassed in a restaurant fashioned after an 18th-century pirate ship accented with vintage furniture and kitschy decor. It became an Atlanta destination and the highlight of Underground Atlanta for tourists and locals alike.
In 1981, Stephensen relocated Dante’s to Peachtree Road in Buckhead, where it continued to delight a new generation of Atlanta diners and included a confessional at the bow of the ship and a moat featuring the restaurant’s star attraction, a seven-foot crocodile named Jerry.
Dante’s briefly returned to Underground Atlanta in 1989, opening a second location there. It closed a decade later. Then, in 2012, Stephensen announced he would be closing the landmark restaurant for good to make way for the Cyan on Peachtree apartment tower. That same year he was inducted into the Atlanta Hospitality Hall of Fame. Dante’s officially closed and was demolished a year later, with Jerry sent off to a sanctuary in St. Augustine, Florida.
Stephensen had hoped to possibly reopen Dante’s Down the Hatch elsewhere in Atlanta. He died last summer of pancreatic cancer at the age of 84.
Throughout Halloween weekend, people can also attend a number of other events planned at Underground Atlanta, including DJs spinning electronic dance music on various stages, costume contests, spooky Halloween installations, food vendors, and an art show featuring Atlanta artists and the works of UK street artist Banksy.
Currently, six local businesses are set up in old store fronts and at carts along Lower Alabama Street, across from the Banksy exhibition. Look for food from young Atlanta entrepreneur Kroy Richardson’s Kroy Korn Gourmet Popcorn, pop-up Dolo’s Pizza, the Diamond Rule Coffee barista cart, charcuterie and snack board company the Bougie Grazer, and Boomers BBQ. All of the pop-up businesses have been gifted four months of free rent at Underground Atlanta through January 5, 2022.
The history of Underground Atlanta begins with storefronts, restaurants, and hotels built along the railroad tracks paralleling Alabama Street near Pryor Street following the Civil War. It’s considered Atlanta’s earliest commercial district. But, in the 1920s, and with pedestrian and vehicle traffic increasing downtown, a five-block stretch was covered over to raise the street level in the area, transforming many of the buildings into basement storage for street-level businesses, and eventually speakeasies during Prohibition.
The below-street portion of the district, with its late 19th-century storefronts, was abandoned until the 1960s, when it was rediscovered and transformed into a hotspot for shopping, dining, and nightlife entertainment through the 1970s. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Take a photo tour and read more about the plans for Underground Atlanta from Urbanize ATL, which include plans for a 21-stall food hall from Chattahoochee Food Works backer Robert Montwaid. It will serve as the anchor tenant for the revitalized Underground Atlanta, currently owned by Shaneel Lalani, the CEO of Lalani Ventures and video gaming company Lucky Fortune777.
The relocated Masquerade concert hall and Future Showbar, an LGBTQ-friendly restaurant, cabaret, and dance bar, are now open at Underground Atlanta.
Disclaimer: Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here. It is highly advised people wear masks indoors or in crowded situations, regardless of vaccination status, to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
- Downtown Landmark Underground Atlanta Becomes the Latest Location to Gain a Food Hall [EATL]
- Dante Stephensen, founder of iconic Atlanta nightspot Dante’s Down the Hatch, dies [AJC]
- Photo tour deep into Underground Atlanta as renovations finally begin [UrbanizeATL]
- Hotel Clermont Is Now Listed on the National Register of Historic Places [EATL]