There were a number of sad and shocking closures over the course of 2023, many related to the pandemic, as three years of constant pivots in service, rising food costs, and diners tightening purse strings finally caught up with some Atlanta restaurants. For other establishments, rising rents in Atlanta and overzealous developers gobbling up properties all over town were to blame.
The decision to close a restaurant is never easy, even when the books and the writing on the wall say otherwise. But many Atlantans found the following restaurant closures to be the toughest goodbyes in 2023.
What many thought was just a temporary closure to make “improvements” to the kitchens and dining rooms, turned permanent in January when longtime restaurants 10th and Piedmont and G’s shuttered at the corner of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue. Owner Gilbert Yeremian announced he was replacing both restaurants with Casa Almenara: Tulum Cuisine and Craft Bar, which opened in February.
Redbird at Westside Provisions District
Rising costs of running a restaurant and the “uncertain future” the industry faces, made more unstable by supply chain and labor shortage issues, were the causes behind the closure of critically acclaimed Redbird in February.
“It’s a business and it has to work. It’s not a fantasy, and it has to be profitable, and it’s getting harder and harder to do that these days,” Stevenson told Eater at the time.
Reactions ranged from regulars lamenting the closure of their favorite restaurant, to tributes and thanks to Stevenson by present and former employees, to fellow Atlanta chefs praising Stevenson for his positivity and staying true to his original vision for Redbird. The closure of Redbird also had many questioning the future of dining in Atlanta—one devoid of restaurants with character and thoughtful food.
Empire State South in Midtown
While the restaurant had been for sale for quite some time, the closure of Top Chef Hugh Acheson’s Empire State South after 13 years in Midtown made its long goodbye in Atlanta permanent and final. Acheson said the decision to close his critically acclaimed Southern restaurant took place weeks before and was due to the financial fallout stemming from the pandemic and continued inflation. The chef was also spending more time in Canada to be closer to his daughters and to care for his ailing father.
Orpheus Brewing in Midtown
Breweries around Atlanta took a big hit this year, with many closing, as unfair distribution laws in Georgia continued stifling profitable revenue avenues for smaller breweries in the state. For owner Jason Pellett, the decision to close Orpheus Brewing and its taproom after nine years in Midtown came down to a personal decision to move on from the brewery and relocate to Amsterdam in the coming year. A partnership with craft beverage maker Bevana will continue brewing and distributing Orpheus’ beers, while Pellett plans to eventually open a small-scale brewery called the Hollows in the Netherlands focused on producing stouts and barleywine.
Chick-fil-A at Greenbriar Mall
Fast food restaurant closures rarely make the news, but the shuttering of the Chick-fil-A at Greenbriar Mall after 56 years there was an exception. For many native and longtime Atlantans, the closure of this particular Chick-fil-A is the end of an era. For others, it’s another sign that the malls lack the appeal they once enjoyed. Chick-fil-A was born from the success of the Dwarf Grill (later renamed the Dwarf House) in Hapeville, which opened in 1946. The Hapeville restaurant was also the birthplace of the Chick-fil-A fried chicken sandwich. Owner Truett Cathy eventually licensed the sandwich to several area restaurants and later built an entire fast food empire around it. Chick-fil-A opened at Greenbriar Mall in 1967.
King and Duke in Buckhead
Known for its wood-fired cooking, Ford Fry said the decision to close King and Duke after ten years in Buckhead came down to having no interest in renewing the lease for another decade on Peachtree Road. Fry was also in the midst of planning for the openings of Little Sparrow and Bar Blanc at Westside Provisions District by year’s end. Chef Fares Kargar will open a location of his Middle Eastern restaurant Delbar in the space next year.
The Hall at Ashford Lane in Dunwoody
The sudden closure of this food hall after just two months in Dunwoody, and under dubious circumstances, seemed to have all of Atlanta talking. Atlanta-based publication Rough Draft reported that some former employees were accusing owner Jamal Malek Wilson of not paying wages owed them and hiring undocumented workers to keep the food hall afloat. Reviews prior to the closure spoke of staffing struggles, high prices, subpar and underwhelming food, and one person calling the food hall a “bland, soulless waste.” Politan Row food hall is taking over the space in 2024 and will include nine restaurant stalls, a central bar, full-service restaurant, and cocktail bar called Okay Anny’s.
Little Trouble at Westside Provisions District
More closure news for Westside Provisions District hit in June when the owners of cocktail bar Little Trouble announced its impending closure, which took place in August. Backed by Victory Brands, the restaurant group behind Victory Sandwich Bar, Lloyd’s, and S.O.S. Tiki Bar, the design for Little Trouble was styled after the 1982 Sci-Fi movie “Blade Runner” with a touch of the 1986 film “Big Trouble in Little China”.
“In true Victory Brands fashion, it would be fun to say something snarky about ‘disagreements with the landlord’ or ‘the rapidly changing nature of West Midtown,’ but the simple reason is that Little Trouble was never meant to last,” a statement to Eater read.
Prior to its closure in August, people flocked to Little Trouble to snap one last photo of themselves posing in front of the iconic neon red and blue sign at the end of the hallway near the entrance to the bar.
The Rusty Nail on Buford Highway
Last call for this venerable dive bar with its giant gun-shaped smoker out front came on September 23. “The South’s version of Cheers” was closing after 50 years on Buford Highway. No reason was given for the closure, but it appears the land on which the Rusty Nail occupied may be up for sale.
Nick Cardellino and Pete Hayes opened the Rusty Nail on Buford Highway in 1974, followed by a Sandy Springs location. That location closed in 2022 after more than 40 years. According to some longtime Atlantans, the Buford Highway location was previously home to hamburger joint Sandy’s Drive-In.
Noni’s on Edgewood Avenue
The closure of Noni’s after 15 years on Edgewood Avenue was bittersweet for owner Matt Ruppert, who met his husband there, and hatched a plan to move to Amsterdam in 2018 and open a bar called Parakeet. Noni’s became a community center of sorts, hosting drag shows, weddings, baby showers, political debates, and election night watch parties. It was also a safe haven for Atlanta’s queer and trans communities.
Closing Noni’s came down to exhaustion, Ruppert said, from traveling back and forth between Amsterdam and Atlanta and from the continuing fight to keep it afloat amid rising costs. The gritty little Italian restaurant and bar, known for its pasta and hoagies, strong cocktails, and late-night dance parties, said its final goodbye right before Halloween, bowing out on Edgewood with one last blowout.
Henry’s in Midtown
The closure of Midtown restaurant and bar Henry’s on 10th Street sparked both anger and sadness among Atlantans. Owner Maureen Kalmanson indicated the lease had expired and she was unable to reach an agreement with the landlord, which is apparently Dewberry Capital Group. The real estate developer was dubbed in 2017 by Bloomberg as “Atlanta’s emperor of empty lots” for abandoned projects left half finished around the city. Henry’s served as a year-round gathering spot for Atlanta’s LGBTQ community, too, who rallied in support of Henry’s right before Thanksgiving, condemning the landlord for causing the closure of the beloved restaurant.
A month of shocking closures
December is typically a month dominated by restaurant closure news. But the year-end restaurant closures in 2023 seem particularly shocking, especially for establishments seen as institutions with relationships in the community that go beyond dining and drinking.
Biggerstaff Brewing Company closed December 16 after just two years on Edgewood Avenue, but had already become an integral part of the community. The owners declined to comment on what led to the closure, only saying it was “due to circumstances beyond our control.” Some speculated rising rents and greedy landlords as the culprits for the closure.
LT’s Wings, the Southwest Atlanta chicken wing institution at Cascade and Fairburn Roads, closes on December 23 after nearly three decades. Owners Doris and George Jeters tell the AJC that “increased competition, changing demographics and health issues” factored into their decision.
Biltong Bar closes at Ponce City Market on December 31 after eight years. Known for its innovative cocktails and South African jerky, owner Justin Anthony chose not to renew the lease on the bar. The space will be taken over in 2024 by Madrid-influenced tapas and pintxos restaurant La Metro, owned by chef Hector Santiago.
Ammazza pizzeria is closing December 31 after almost 12 years in the Old Fourth Ward. The lease is up, but the owners are hinting at the possibility of reopening elsewhere. Despite this glimmer of hope, news of Ammazza’s impending closure traveled fast in Atlanta, with people making it a point to stop by for one last glitter pizza or fiery Inferno pie. Ammazza weathered downturns in the economy, a temporary closure to repair significant damage to the 100-year-old building due to two separate car crashes, a drop in sales following the closure of the Edgewood Avenue bridge for 13 months, and the pandemic. But some say it couldn’t outrun rising rents spurred on by continuing redevelopment in the Old Fourth Ward.
Hodgepodge Coffeehouse closes December 31 after 12 years on Moreland Avenue in East Atlanta due to a “significant rent hike” and continuing health issues, according to owner Krystle Rodriguez. The coffee shop became a place known for supporting and hosting social justice organizations in Atlanta and became home to a free community fridge, providing unhoused and food insecure residents in East Atlanta access to donated food and household items.