Ten Atlanta made a big splash when it landed on gay Atlanta's nightlife scene two years ago, so expect an even bigger party when it celebrates its anniversary on Sunday.
Since the restaurant-bar launched as the latest addition to the popular corner of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, we've watched as it made no smoking the norm, amped up an already fun Sunday Funday, offered up a boy buffet, made the Super Bowl gay, made the night glow and partied post Pride parade. A holiday? Ten does Halloween, Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve proud, too.
Along the way, Ten even earned a nod as Atlanta's “Best Gay Bar.”
So as Ten celebrates its second anniversary on Sunday with a big party, entertainers and a DJ, Project Q Atlanta chatted with owner James Nelson about fulfilling his vision for the bar, how it came about and plans for the future.
“I want to thank the community for their strong support of Ten and the staff for their hard work and dedication,” Nelson says. “We promise to continue providing the best atmosphere for your enjoyment for many years to come.”
What prompted you to turn a former burger joint into a new upscale nightspot and jump into the middle of LGBT nightlife?
Having been in Atlanta for 17 years as a business owner involved in the gay community, I saw the need for an upscale bar similar in style to those I patronized in other major cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. We all know location is key to success. I had been searching for the right location for a few months with no luck. In August of 2012 I received a call from a close friend to inform me 5 Napkin had closed. I didn't hesitate in contacting the landlord. I knew this was the perfect location for Ten. I negotiated an asset purchase from the 5 Napkin group, assumed the lease, and Ten was created.
When you opened, you envisioned a restaurant by day and bar by night. Have you met that vision? Has it changed in the two years since you opened?
The business model is working very well; I couldn't be happier. I will admit it took longer than I expected for the neighborhood and community to understand the concept. At the beginning of 2014 I approached two close friends, Krystee and Kevin Spencer, about coming on board and rebranding the restaurant portion of the business, they agreed, and Table at Ten was born. This has helped greatly in marketing the business model.
Ten has been no smoking from the start, and other LGBT bars have since changed their policies to match. What prompted you to ban smoking? What sort of feedback do you get from patrons about the policy?
During my travels I would immediately notice when going to bars, they were non- smoking and what a difference it made. I decided early on if Georgia wasn’t going to follow suit with the other states in regard to the non-smoking law, Ten would. I have had many patrons come up to me who smoke and thank me for making Ten a non-smoking bar. They tell me they prefer to smoke outside and refer to Ten’s amazing patio where smoking is allowed.
Ten offers variety in its programming, from a patio hotspot to fundraisers for LGBT groups, go-go boys shaking their stuff, drag queens and DJs pumping out the beats. Why such an eclectic approach?
Ten is a bar where everyone is welcome. Our patrons are gay men, gay women, transgender, straight men and straight women of all ages. This is exactly the environment we wanted to create at Ten. In doing so, we offer a variety that will appeal to all.
What can people expect from Sunday's party?
Sunday’s party will be a blast as all Sunday Funday parties are. We will have shot boys, go-go boys, performances by Lena Lust, Jealouse and Chavon Scott. The show will be hosted by Kitty LeClaw. In addition, we will be serving anniversary cocktails from Absolut with souvenir glasses.
What else should people know about the bar, its anniversary and your plans for the future?
I am currently working on my new venture – this is the first mention of it in public. It will be an all inclusive event planning, catering, and design company, Toast of the Town. I am bringing great talent on board with years of experience. Clint Billingsley, David Stark, Krystee Manifold Spencer, and Adam Bland will be key partners in the success of the company. We are all very excited.
Ten Atlanta's Two Year Anniversary Party is Sunday, Jan. 25.