For scores of Atlanta restaurants and bars, 2022 was a year of recovery and growth in new directions. Those new directions, however, offered many longtime restaurant and bar owners an out clause, opting to retire after two or more decades in the industry. But for some establishments, rising rents, overzealous developers gobbling up properties all over town, and damage caused by the financial upheaval of the pandemic during the last two years was too much to overcome.
The decision to close is never an easy one, even when the books and the writing on the wall say otherwise. The year saw more than a few big or shocking Atlanta restaurant and bar closures each month, but the 12 closures listed below were some of the toughest goodbyes for Atlantans and Eater readers in 2022.
Diesel Filling Station — Virginia-Highland
The year began with a sad closure of a neighborhood favorite in Virginia-Highland, occurring just hours after 2022 officially kicked off. Sports bar and pub Diesel Filling Station closed after 13 years on North Highland. The bar was listed for sale in September 2021, but remained open through the end of that year. Diesel was known for its subs and cheeseburger, loaded fries, and “Death Muffin” served during brunch. The building, a former gas station, can also be seen in an episode of the TV series “The Walking Dead”. Fears the property might be redeveloped once the sale went through proved unfounded, after Randy Pechin, the owner of cocktail bar Little Spirit in Inman Park, purchased it in February 2022. He just opened a bar and restaurant called Dad’s in the space.
The team from Kimball House closed their seafood and oyster bar Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits in February after nearly four years at Krog Street Market. Partner Bryan Rackley told Eater at the time that the restaurant wasn’t really a fit in the end for the market. And while the restaurant was doing well prior to the pandemic, the global health crisis affected Watchman’s more profoundly than Kimball House. The space is set to become a location of vegan restaurant chain Planta in 2023.
Sweet Melissa’s — Decatur
Longtime brunch restaurant Sweet Melissa’s closed next to Brick Store Pub after 32 years on Decatur Square. Owners Glen and Liz Gurevitch choose to retire from the restaurant business in March. But they mentioned “exciting things” to come for the building. First opened in 1989 as the Pita Place, the Gurevitch’s eventually changed the name to Sweet Melissa’s in 1996, named in honor of their daughter. The restaurant was known for serving a variety of pancakes, omelets, and French toast as well as sandwiches and salads. It’s still unclear what will replace Sweet Melissa’s in the building.
Southern bakery Root Baking Co. closed in early April after three years on the second floor of the central food hall of Ponce City Market, and seven years in business. But the closure wasn’t the end of the story for baker Chris Wilkins, who told Eater the closure was simply realizing it was time to move on and find a new project. That new project was the expansion and relocation of the bakery’s sister establishment Pizza Jeans. The pizzeria moved from the former Root Baking space on the second floor to the first floor of the food hall, where it recently reopened for whole pies, mall slices, and cocktails.
Babette’s Cafe — Poncey-Highland
April saw the closure of a beloved institution in Poncey-Highland, when Babette’s Cafe owner Marla Adams announced she was retiring and closing the French restaurant named for the film “Babette’s Feast” after 30 years. As expected, online reactions to the closure ranged from dismay and sadness to congratulatory for the chef’s much-earned retirement.
The Highlander — Midtown
The sudden closure of this three-decade-old bar at Midtown Promenade sent shockwaves through Atlanta in June. Owners Darby Yale and Darlene Copeland-Yale, who had recently taken over the Highlander from Jeff Merback, announced the closure on social media citing “unforeseen circumstances and hardships.” People immediately took to the comments to speculate about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the closure, including wondering whether recent rent hikes by Midtown Promenade property owner, Asana Partners, were to blame. Rumors persisted for weeks that the Highlander might become a location of sports bar Benchwarmers. Alici oyster and seafood bar just opened in the former Frogs Cantina space, which closed at the Monroe Drive complex in 2020.
Joy Cafe — Midtown
Joy Cafe closed suddenly in July following the arrest of co-owner Jon Beber on three charges of sexual assault on minors while coaching a Colorado swim team between 1997 and 2002. Cafe 1933, owned by Caleb Giles, opened in the space earlier this fall. The restaurant nods to the era in which the U.S. was emerging from 13 years of Prohibition, serving classic cocktails paired with caviar “bumps”, smash burgers, and a venison Benedict.
8ARM — Virginia-Highland
The closure of critically acclaimed restaurant and bar 8ARM in August was the first indication that times were swiftly changing in this area near the Eastside Beltline along Ponce de Leon Avenue, which includes nightlife institutions like The Bookhouse Pub, MJQ (which by the way ISN’T closing after New Year’s Eve this year), and The Local. This stretch of Ponce is facing major redevelopment plans by Portman Holdings over the next year, and to say people are angry about it would be a gross understatement. Before its closure, 8ARM was known for its regular reinvention that featured a rotating lineup of chefs offering ever-evolving menus. This included Maricela Vega, who transformed the menu into an homage to Meso-American cuisine during her time at the restaurant. The space adjacent to the dining room first served as a coffee shop, followed by wine bar Ink, and then finally a sushi bar. Owners Skip Englebrecht and Nhan Le went on to open two wildly successful locations of seafood restaurant Fishmonger in 2022.
Zesto — Buckhead
Following the closure of the Little Five Points location at the end of 2021, the closure of the longtime Piedmont Road location of Zesto after 50 years didn’t come as a big surprise. But the closure of the beloved homegrown fast food joint, known for its burgers and soft serve ice cream, was sad nonetheless for many Atlantans. The property on which Zesto resides was sold. Owners Jimbo and Leigh Ann Livaditis called the decision to shutter this particular location “hard”, as the Livaditis family once lived in an apartment nearby years ago.
Elliott Street Deli and Pub — Castleberry Hill
Despite knowing for over three years the bar was up for sale, the closure of this Castleberry Hill watering hole was still both shocking and sad for scores of regulars who frequented Elliott Street Pub for years. Brothers Mike and Pete Jakob purchased the circa-1870 carriage house at 51 Elliott Street in 2004, where they planned to base their construction business. After completing a contracting job at a club in Milwaukee and falling in love with the gritty neighborhood bars there, they opened Elliott Street Pub in a 600-square-foot space on the street level of the two-story building. The bar served deli-style and pressed sandwiches like the French dip and hot pastrami with dive bar standard cocktails, a handful of beers on draft, and PBR tallboys. The building’s new owner is NFL quarterback and Atlanta native Cam Newton, who also owns cigar bar and restaurant Fellaship and Smokey Stallion Barbecue in Castleberry Hill. Newton doesn’t intend to tear down the historic building, which he may turn into another bar. Read Eater’s 2019 story behind the sale.
Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand — East Atlanta
This closure hit the East Atlanta community hard. The original location of Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand closed on Moreland Avenue in November due to the sale of the property. Owner Delia Champion plans to retire after a long career in the restaurant business. Champion closed the Marietta Street location of Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand in August due to the sale of that property. She first opened her popular chicken sausage stand over a decade ago in East Atlanta. Its success, along with a thriving wholesale business, led to the opening of a second location in 2014 near Georgia Tech. Champion opened the first Flying Biscuit Cafe in Candler Park in 1993, followed by a second location in 2000 on 10th Street in Midtown. She signed a deal to franchise Flying Biscuit in 2006. The Candler Park and Midtown locations are now owned by Joseph and Matthew Hsiao.
Floataway Cafe — Zonolite Road
The last day for Floataway Cafe, co-owned by James Beard award-winning chef Anne Quatrano, is set for Friday, December 23. It closes just before Christmas after 25 years on Zonolite Road. The closure announcement had many Atlantans reflecting back on birthday and anniversary celebrations at the restaurant, meals at the bar, and casual dinners on Floataway’s dog friendly patio. Quatrano opened Floataway in 1998 with husband and business partner chef Clifford Harrison in a converted warehouse just off of Briarcliff Road. The opening of Floataway followed the success Quatrano and Harrison found with fine dining restaurant Bacchanalia, which the couple opened in 1993 in Buckhead, before moving it to Westside Provisions District in 1999. Bacchanalia, along with neighboring market and cafe Star Provision, relocated again in 2017, this time to a new standalone building nearby along Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard in Blandtown. Quatrano is planning to offer a ticketed supper club at Star Provisions in 2023. The family-style dinners will take place weekly and feature some of Floataway Cafe’s most popular dishes. Floataway executive chef Faye Poone (Eaksuree Poonsiripukdeekul) is overseeing the menu.