The scruffy home of attitude-free fun and ManShaft madness is back. Cockpit is open and pouring again with a new owner breathing fresh life into the gay Atlanta bar nestled in Grant Park.
The 1,900 square feet of space inside a compact strip shopping center on Boulevard opened in May 2011 to early success that slowly whittled away. So last November, former owner Michael Winfield pulled down the sign, closed up shop and revamped the space to a restaurant named Gravy.
But as the restaurant struggled, Winfield turned to former Cockpit regular Arthur Dutton and reminded him of a statement Dutton made soon after he opened the bar – “When you're ready to get out of the bar business, let me know. I'd love to have this place,” Dutton recalls.
In June, Winfield reached out to Dutton and said it's time. So Dutton – a 60-year-old retired veteran of the chemical industry – jumped at the chance. Within weeks, Winfield sold Cockpit to him for an undisclosed amount. Then Dutton made a few interior changes, including removing the dark paint from the front window, pulled together a staff that includes his bartender husband Tim Hird, and launched Cockpit 2.0.
The new bar took flight on July 10 and continued to play off its naughty aviator double entendre:
The rumors are true. The Cockpit is returning under new management. Take off with us and fly into the night with your friends and neighbors.
Dutton says it's still a work in progress but stresses that his focus will be on customer service. It's something Dutton – now a national customer service manager for another chemical firm – knows a few things about.
“It is gong to be a neighborhood gay bar, but I want it to be a neighborhood bar. Grant Park is a well-mixed neighborhood,” Dutton says. “I want it to be a place where everyone in the neighborhood can come. I want everyone to feel comfortable coming in.”
Dutton says his plans for Cockpit are still taking shape, but visitors can expect a schedule of dancing, theme nights and maybe even the return of drag queen bingo. A menu of food options is being developed and will launch in the next few weeks, he adds.
“People are going to come in and be catered to. They are going to get everything they want and leave there wanting to come back,” Dutton says.
[photo via Nathan ML]