The closure of the bar was all but a done deal when news broke in 2022 that Atlanta developer Portman Holdings had purchased several properties along a popular nightlife stretch of Ponce. But rising interest rates, high construction costs, and a downturn in the rental market, among other economic factors, “have simply changed the viability of new projects”, Portman tells Rough Draft. Now the Local and neighboring Vesta Movement are no longer part of the Portman Ponce and Ponce redevelopment project.
The 2022 purchase by Portman also included the Bookhouse Pub, MJQ and its bar Drunken Unicorn, and the former 8ARM and Paris on Ponce spaces. The latter two plots were previously purchased by Cartel Properties and eventually sold to Portman.
While Portman hopes to close on the revised properties by the end of 2023, construction likely won’t kick off for at least another two years. All businesses slated for redevelopment, including the Bookhouse and Drunken Unicorn, will remain open in the interim until Portman breaks ground on the project. However, the owners of MJQ are still moving forward with the nightclub’s relocation to the former Dante’s Down the Hatch space at Underground Atlanta.
As for the Local, owner Charles Kerns and managing partner Steven Dixey tell the Atlanta Business Chronicle the bar will temporarily close for renovations in the next four months, with employees given paid vacation until the bar reopens. In addition to repairs to the building, Kerns and Dixey want to use the time to make improvements to the ordering system and the Local’s chicken wing operation. Wings frequently sell out.
But one thing won’t change at the Local and that’s the dive bar vibe.
“We might still be rude to you. We might still be out of wings. If you don’t have your ID, we’re not going to let you stay. We’re still going to be The Local,” says Dixey.