It appears longtime Midtown Promenade dive bar the Highlander is now closed after 30 years at the Monroe Drive complex. The bar apparently shut down after service on Monday, June 20.
Owners Darby Yale and Darlene Copeland-Yale, who recently took over the Highlander from Jeff Merback, posted the announcement to social media around lunchtime on Monday, stating the closure was due to “unforeseen circumstances and hardships.”
The sudden announcement sent shockwaves throughout social media in Atlanta, with hundreds of people expressing sadness on Instagram and Facebook, asking why, speculating about a possible rent hike, and reminiscing about evenings of drinks and debauchery over pinball, pool, and air hockey. There are rumors the Highlander could become a location of sports bar Benchwarmers.
But a rather ambiguous follow-up post on the Highlander’s Facebook page nine hours later puts the closure’s permanency into question and is leaving people wondering what happens next.
“Simmer down teapots! Where there’s a will, there’s a way…Patience young grasshoppers,” the follow-up post states. The post has since been deleted.
So, is the Highlander closing or merely going dormant? As one commenter remarked in another post regarding a missing marionette from the back bar, “this is not being handled well.” Other commenters asked if the initial closure announcement was a “stunt”, alluding to the change of ownership of the Star Bar in Little Five Points last year, after its former owner announced that bar’s closing at the end of 2020.
Eater reached out Monday afternoon, and then again Tuesday morning, to ask for more clarification on the Highlander’s closure and future plans.
Open until 1 a.m. most days, the Highlander became known for its punk and metal-themed decor and come-as-you-are atmosphere, often hosting bands and karaoke nights in the same vein. Not to be outdone by the cold beers and generously poured shots from the bar, the kitchen served classic bar food, including the Highlander’s most popular menu items a pitcher of tater tots, jerk chili, and pastarella sticks, which earned it a spot on Guy Fieri’s show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in 2008.
Charlotte-based Asana Partners acquired Midtown Promenade, also home to Midtown Art Cinema, Trader Joe’s, MetroFresh, Desi Spice Indian Cuisine, and Apres Diem. In addition to Midtown Promenade, the company owns Krog Street Market, the Stove Works, and SPX Alley in the Old Fourth Ward, Plaza on Ponce in Poncey-Highlands, and the Brickworks on Marietta Street. All of the above properties are currently undergoing renovations to include new tenants.
The closure of the Highlander at Midtown Promenade makes it the third restaurant and bar in two years. Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen closed at the end of 2020 after six years serving classic and traditional Taiwanese dishes. Just days later, popular Tex-Mex restaurant Frogs Cantina closed next to MetroFresh after 15 years at the Monroe Drive complex. Owners of both restaurants cited the financial fallout stemming from the pandemic at the time of the closures.
However, rumors of rent hikes by Asana spurred on by Midtown Promenade’s prime location and proximity to the Eastside Beltline trail persist. Renovations should include a walkway connecting the complex to the Beltline, a new green space, and several cosmetic improvements to the buildings.
At least one new restaurant is set to open at Midtown Promenade by the end of 2022. Pat Pascarella, the chef behind Italian restaurants the White Bull in Decatur, Grana in Piedmont Heights, and Bastone on Howell Mill, plans to open oyster and seafood bar Alici. The restaurant takes over the former Frogs Cantina space.
Locations of Korean taco and burrito restaurant Yumbii, takeout restaurant the Queso Shop, and all-day brunch restaurant Snooze, an A.M. Eatery are also slated to open at Midtown Promenade in the coming year.
Check back for updates to this story.