Joystick guys take on new venue, new partner, new ‘hood

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When it comes to reinvention, it’s hard to surpass the owners of Joystick Gamebar and Georgia Beer Garden. Now Johnny Martinez and Brandon Ley channel that energy toward a third bar and new changes at their existing spots.

You may know Ley and Martinez as the gay dynamic business behind one of Atlanta’s most popular queer and allied eateries. They also made waves with epic COVID pivots, business-led marijuana legalization efforts, a series of LGBTQ soccer watch parties and hearts toward giving back.

When their third venture opens this summer, the pair shows off still more new moves.

For starters, they bring on another co-owner for By Weight & Measure. Ian Carlson is the general manager at the Edgewood spots, and he steps up to spearhead the new craft cocktail concept.

“We want to highlight a lot of the really cool techniques that have been pioneered in recent years by bartenders in the ‘cocktail chemistry’ movement that are being used around the city, but not being put front and center for the guest,” Carlson told Project Q.

“Stuff like centrifuge clarification, milk-washing and vacuum infusion are really cool and exciting, and we want them to be the star of the show,” he added. “Think chemistry lab meets cocktail bar, but with a warm heart.”

So what does that mean for the menu? At least one of the most popular Carlson creations at Joystick reappears at By Weight & Measure. The Knuckin’ and Buckin’ is a coffee-bourbon slushie he calls his “firstborn.”

“I’ve also been working on lots of other ideas,” Carlson promised. “The Simple Peanut Farmer, house-made peanut butter bourbon and Coca-Cola, is an ode to my South Georgia roots and Great American Jimmy Carter.”

“The Bristol County is a carbonated love affair between gin, cranberries and rosemary,” he added. “Forty Years Together is a boozy sipper featuring milk-washed chai infused rum, bourbon and herbal & coconut liqueurs.”

The drink menu also includes a carefully curated selection of wines and beers.

By Weight & Measure has tested its concept at pop-up bars. (Photo courtesy By Weight & Measure)

Time and place

In addition to a new partner, the team also ventures out of Edgewood and into Midtown for By Weight & Measure. They think the ground floor of the Coda complex in Tech Square is the perfect spot.

“I personally love the idea of all the innovation and collaboration happening on Georgia Tech’s campus spilling over into the food hall at the Collective,” Carlson said.

The still-roiling coronavirus pandemic remains a top-of-mind concern for all involved, but the new venue arrives at a time of widespread optimism for a post-pandemic Atlanta.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been an extremely large concern in my life, although I am cautiously optimistic about the vaccine rollout,” Carlson said.

Martinez agreed.

“We’re slowly coming out of our COVID hibernation and will be completely reopen soon.”

LGBTQ pro soccer watch parties are among the sponsored events at Georgia Beer Garden. (Photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood)

What’s new on Edgewood?

Reopening beyond takeout for the existing Ley-Martinez venues comes with changes, too. They set sites on April 5 to fling open Joystick’s doors on renovations and expansions since lockdown 2020.

“We’re expanding our Opus-09 room to allow for more events with better seating,” Martinez said. “We’re also putting in a half-bar in our parlor to make service on busy nights easier for everyone.”

Across the street at Georgia Beer Garden, the changes are even bigger.

“Georgia Beer Garden is getting an update to the interior as well as the menu,” Martinez promised.

The upstairs space is completely transformed for an opening targeted a few weeks after Joystick’s return.

“We’re very excited to open our Mambo Zombi Room + After Life Lounge upstairs at GBG,” Martinez said. “This will be a fusion of Latin American and Afro-Caribbean flavors and music. Think Day of the Dead. Think Voodoo. Think banana daquiris.”

The expertise of sommelier and craft bartender Kysha Cyrus is part of the new vibe. Martinez calls her “Atlanta’s greatest living palate.”

That should come as no surprise. Switching things up, new partnerships and revitalized spaces are just extensions of work these business owners already love.

“It feels good to give some love to these spaces and enhance what works so well,” Martinez said.


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