The story begins simply enough: in the early 1970s, with a restaurant/ bar/ concert venue located in a building repurposed from its original industrial use. Nearly three decades later, that building was home to a variety of activities, at times of dubious legality and not exactly well-organized, but which together made the building an outpost, a final relic, of an older version of downtown Athens, or at least the eastern “warehouse district” part of downtown.
The B & L Warehouse opened in 1972. This article from the November 16, 1972, issue of the Red and Black confirms the venue’s opening and profiles those involved in the endeavor. The B & L became a major go-to place for live music in Athens, alongside the Georgia Theatre, the Last Resort (in the same location but certainly not the same business as the present-day restaurant of the same name), T.K. Harty’s Saloon, the J & J Center, and the Armadillo Palace. By the end of the decade, two venues, Tyrone’s O.C. and the 40 Watt Club, featuring a new generation of popular music, strikingly different from the Country, R & B, and Rock selling in the millions at the time, were making their mark.
In the early 1980s, the artists who made this “new music” (the vague term often preferred at the time) made Athens an international phenomenon, winning raves in the New York Rocker and across the Atlantic in the New Musical Express and elsewhere. They developed their work in the wake of the surprising success of the B-52’s, a band founded locally but who moved to New York to move forward artistically and commercially. The likes of Pylon, the Side Effects, and Love Tractor, in contrast, remained based in Athens, encouraging new local talent. Appropriately, new nightclubs emerged as well: the Mad Hatter, Smoke’s, and the Uptown Lounge (not to the be confused with the bar that in the 1990s took the name and lasted considerably longer). Another band from the Tyrone’s-centered scene, R.E.M., quickly became the most talked-about in town. There was some bad news too, though, as the Tyrone’s building fell prey to a fire, the Georgia Theatre returned to its former function as a cinema for much of the 1980s, and the Last Resort closed.
The B & L building was destined for a fate more peculiar and convoluted. First, it became the “i and i club,” which aimed to take the place of Tyrone’s as a home of sorts for the new music scene. This short article from the October 21, 1982, issue of the Red and Black makes note of an upcoming R.E.M. show at the club, one of the last times the band could play such a small venue, as the next year they would release their debut album, Murmur, a critical and commercial smash.
(The advertisements below it have been included to offer a little slice of Athens commercial life, not least the Putt-Putt business at the time playing host to many children’s birthday parties.)
The “i and i” did not last long. The clipping above, from the May 12, 1983, issue of the Athens Observer gives the lowdown (written by local legend Phil Sanderlin, no less) and explains the origin of the club’s name, if not its curious non-capitalized inscription. New bands playing in the “new music”/ “new wave” style gravitated to the 40 Watt Club at its “uptown” location on Broad Street, where the short-lived Smoke’s had been located, and the Uptown Lounge. The article even quotes a manager of the “i and i” passing the torch, if you will, to the new version of the 40 Watt.
The advertisement below, from the November 20, 1981, Red and Black launches the next part of our story. At first, it may seem woefully out of place. An Atlanta nightclub? In Buckhead, no less? Sure enough, if you were to review articles from the time, you would find that Athenians, especially University students, loved going to this place to… “celebrate that Bulldog Bite”?
Apparently they loved it so much, the place moved to Athens, taking the place of the “i and i” in 1983. The Red and Black once again covered the opening a new venue, in its September 22, 1983, issue.
An advertisement from the October 7, 1983, issue shows that indeed the Athens version of Buckhead Beach was up and running.
An article from the November 1, 1983, Red and Black suggests some of the changes taking place in the music that seem to correspond to these changes in the nightclubs involved, and their location downtown (or “uptown”). The stated interest of Buckhead Beach’s management in “fun” did not necessarily translate into live music (which is not to say that the club did not want to book bands).
In its extremely-short history, however, the topic of alcohol consumption became primary. The “Drink n’ Drown” nights, noted in the advertisement above, incited controversy. These theme nights were also promoted at another nightlife hot spot, O’Malley’s, located just down the road (in the old mill building that later housed Dial-America Marketing and is now the University’s School of Social Work). This April 17, 1984, Red and Black piece provides the scoop.
As the article indicates, Buckhead Beach, the venue, was gone after less than a year. But the name would live on. The building would be referred to as Buckhead Beach for another two decades. The name was so common that journalists did not bother to explain its origins. Part Two will pick up the story, using old newspapers to provide glimpses into the numerous activities that went on in the building, nowadays owned by the University and called the Hodgson Oil Building.