‘Great beer’ with gay twist coming to Edgewood

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In case classic arcade games and tasty cocktails aren't enough, the gay owners behind Joystick Gamebar are opening a second restaurant and bar so you can swill local brews. Right across the street.

Johnny Martinez (top photo right) and Brandon Ley (top photo left) are turning a 4,500-square-foot, two-story former animal clinic at 420 Edgewood Avenue into Georgia Beer Garden. Think sports bar on top, beer garden on bottom that coaxes out the 100-year-old building's Southern Gothic charm. And it will all happen just steps away from Joystick on Edgewood Avenue, a diverse stretch in the Old Fourth Ward that's already home to a handful of gay-owned businesses attracting widespread attention and badass bitches.

And yes, expect the beer garden to retain the eclectic charm of Joystick, which Martinez and Ley opened in 2012, and the entire strip. We caught up with Martinez to talk about how they conceived the new bar, why sports jocks get to be on top and the diversity of Edgewood Avenue.

When did you guys hatch plans for the new spot at 420 Edgewood? Was it the address (420) that attracted you? Or the building?

We had been approached about opening a new bar. We knew we wanted it to be a beer garden or a beer hall that focused on locally made brews. When it didn't work out we decided we still liked the idea and put it away in case the right location opened up. When the animal clinic came on the market we knew we had limited time to act on it, and we knew we would regret it if we didn't give it a shot. We always loved the Edgewood Animal Clinic; it's a beautiful building, and it has an interesting history. It's also right across the street from Joystick. The address didn't really play into it – that was just luck.

The 420 Edgewood structure looks a little rough around the edges. What are your plans for rehabbing the building?

She's rough around the edges in a Tallulah Bankhead sort of way. We think it's part of her charm. Rough edges are to be expected, as she's over a hundred years old. We're somewhat limited as to what we can do on the outside since we're in a historic district. On the inside we're going to try and keep as much of the building's character as possible. There is a lot of Southern Gothic in her we'd like to help coax out.

Your aspirations for the new place are a Southern take on a classic beer garden. Tell us more. 

There is something very Southern about sitting outside on a nice day and relaxing with friends over a cold beer, and we're very lucky now to have so many good breweries open and opening in Georgia. We want to take the focus you get on good beer and good food from a beer garden and make it more local. We make great beer here in Georgia. There is nothing wrong in celebrating that.

Top floor as a sports bar with lower level as a beer hall? Describe how that's going to work.

Sports are very much a part of life in Georgia. You can't have a Georgia Beer Garden and not have a space where you can watch a game with your friends. We want the top floor to be that space. The main floor, however, we want focused on people and conversations, so no televisions there. It will also have some of the communal elements you might find in a classic German beer hall.

Joystick, like most of that stretch of Edgewood, is gay-friendly with several gay-owned spots, including Noni's and Church, but not specifically gay. What sort of vibe and crowd are you hoping to attract at your new space?

We want to attract everyone. People who like good beer; people who like hanging out with their friends; people who want to eat good food. What we love about Edgewood is that it's the most diverse street in Atlanta. We want the entirety of that diversity to come, because we're not looking to keep anyone out. Except maybe for assholes.

Will it be Georgia's first beer garden with a drag show?

Who says we haven't had one there already?

When can we expect to be downing pints at Georgia Beer Garden?

Summer 2015.

Anything else you'd like to share about the new spot and plans for Joystick?

About the beer garden no but about Joystick yes. We're raffling off Dragon Con tickets at Drink Beer for Charity on Aug. 26 as a fundraiser for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Monday Night Brewing is donating kegs and every pint purchased gets you a ticket in the raffle. You can get more tickets if you show up in costume. It's rare for Dragon Con to donate tickets to be raffled off, so we're very excited about it.

We're also starting to search for our next kitchen incubation. We're looking for passionate talented chefs who don't have the means to open a restaurant on their own but have always wanted to share their skills. Someone who loves making good food.

[Top, second photos by J Cassoni Photography; bottom photo by Project Q]


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