The Atlanta City Council recently approved legislation that temporarily closes a portion of Edgewood Avenue to cars on weekends this summer.
Starting in June through Labor Day, the 400 block of Edgewood Avenue from Jackson Street to Boulevard becomes pedestrian-only beginning Friday morning at 10 a.m. until 10 a.m. on Monday morning. The weekend street closure does not affect the street car, which turns north at Jackson Street.
Over the last few years, the western portion of Edgewood Avenue has seen an uptick in crowds, cruising, and people performing car stunts in the middle of the road blocking traffic on weekend evenings. The area is a popular nightlife destination and home to several bars, clubs, and restaurants, including campy bar Sister Louisa’s Church, Noni’s Deli, Our Bar ATL, Harold’s Chicken, Esco Seafood, Joystick Gamebar, and Georgia Beer Garden.
District 2 councilperson Amir Farokhi co-sponsored the street closure legislation with District 5 councilperson Natalyn Archibong. Both districts share boundaries along Edgewood.
“The one-block closure has been requested by businesses for over five years. It is largely to create a safer environment for patrons of area bars and restaurants,” Farokhi said in an email to Eater Wednesday evening. “Sidewalks are incredibly narrow, crowds can be large, and streets have, at times, been resident to dangerous car tricks. This legislation was for this block only and for the summer. We’ll see how it goes.”
Brandon Ley and Johnny Martinez, the owners of Georgia Beer Garden and Joystick, say they’re happy to see the city finally taking steps to make Edgewood Avenue more pedestrian-friendly. The pair plan to take full advantage of the block-wide shutdown over the next three months, which will allow them to provide more outdoor seating options at both locations for people bar hopping along Edgewood on the weekends.
“We will be able to experiment with service in a way that improves the pedestrian experience on the street,” Martinez tells Eater, who also worries about the impact the street closure could have on businesses and restaurants west of the 400 block. “We’d love to see this block of Edgewood become a sort of night market and a space for anyone who has a business on Edgewood to be able to sell things and take advantage of the situation this summer.”
If the pilot program on Edgewood proves successful, it could become permanent and possibly serve as a template for a future city permit allowing for the closure of other streets to vehicle traffic in Atlanta on certain days of the week.
Earlier this year, the city council unanimously approved an ordinance permitting restaurants and bars to offer seating on city streets to provide additional outdoor dining space. Restaurants and bars submit an application, along with a site plan that includes furniture placement, to the Atlanta Department of Transportation. The permit is good through the end of 2021.
Atlanta restaurants, like JenChan’s in Cabbagetown, Bon Ton in Midtown, and Talat Market in Summerhill, have also installed parklets through a grant program from city of Atlanta. The city provides all of the building materials and performs the installation of the parklet, which remains in place through the end of the year. Parklets have proven particularly successful for restaurants with little or no outdoor seating, some of which are still struggling to recoup pandemic-related financial losses from the last year.
“Parklets designed to last more than a couple of months typically cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 or more,” JenChan’s co-owner Emily Chan said in March. “This grant is a game changer for our business, allowing safe dining outside.”