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It's 3 a.m. What Now? 

One guy's journey to keep the party going after the bars shut down

Page 3 of 5

During a 3 a.m. stop at Kroger, I ran into Steve, whom bartenders at the Local have dubbed "the Chairman" -- he spends so much time there customers assume he's the boss. This wasn't my first time running into Steve at Kroger in the middle of the night. I'd seen him there a few weeks earlier.

"Late-night Kroger shopping is one of my favorite sports," Steve said. "I wake up the next morning and figure out what I bought the night before. It's great. I come here at night all the time."

He wasn't kidding. Steve and the cashiers were on a first name basis. They even waved to him . He saluted them back. It was like watching a celebrity buy groceries.

2:55 a.m., Sat., Sept. 24

Kenny's Alley at Underground is the cluster of clubs that the city has designated its "entertainment district" -- despite all evidence to the contrary. To encourage people to do their partying at Underground, City Council even passed an ordinance permitting the clubs there to stay open an hour later than other city bars.

At least that's what I thought until my roommate and I found Underground's bars closing up shop at 3 a.m. on a Saturday.

It turns out the only night of the week that Underground isn't open until 4 a.m. is Saturday night, when the clubs are forced to close at 3.

I would like to take this opportunity to challenge the city of Atlanta to explain the logic behind making the Underground clubs close at 3 instead of 4 a.m. on a Saturday night. If the clubs were forced to close at, say, midnight, at least that would hint at an attempt to be consistent with the state's no-booze-on-Sundays blue laws.

click to enlarge SOUPY MEMORY: Some of Tofu 88's 4 a.m. customers look a little worse for wear. - COLEY WARD
  • SOUPY MEMORY: Some of Tofu 88's 4 a.m. customers look a little worse for wear.

Anyway, I talked the bouncer into letting me slip into Underground's goth club, Future. Inside, there was a lot of black patent-leather. Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" played loudly over the PA. A man wearing eye makeup and a fishnet shirt was swaying his arms back and forth. A woman with pale white skin, dyed black hair and stickers on her nipples was waving her arms in the air, twirling around, breasts exposed. On the dancefloor, a middle-aged woman with short chestnut hair in jeans and a blue blouse was dancing with a younger girl in a shiny silver silk blouse and black skirt. They looked thoroughly out of place.

3:30 a.m., Sat., Sept. 24

Once again, I got a supposedly good tip on the location of a speakeasy. This tip came from multiple colleagues and friends, so I figured it was legit. I even ran into some people earlier in the evening who told me they knew the speakeasy I was headed to and that it did indeed exist.

We were looking for a place off Howell Mill Road, but when my roommate and I pulled up, all we found was a couple of guys standing outside looking for the same party, which obviously wasn't happening.

4:30 a.m., Sat., Sept. 24

Dispirited from another failed attempt to find a speakeasy, we decided to finish the evening with a little class and headed over to the InterContinental Buckhead for a snack at the hotel's all-night French restaurant, Au Pied de Cochon, which in English translates to "at the pig's foot." The restaurant actually serves that bizarre French delicacy, pig's feet.

Au Pied de Cochon seemed to be shooting for a Moulin Rouge ambiance. The walls were painted with pictures of cherubs and flying pigs, and colorful glass chandeliers hung overhead. Our waiter, a nervous man whose accent was indistinguishable, though definitely not French, placed our white cotton napkins in our laps.

I ordered the parfait -- vanilla yogurt, granola, mango and berries. My roommate ordered the chicken fried steak, but they were out, so he got the eggs Benedict instead.

Two groups of diners shouted at each other across the restaurant, jokingly trading barbs at high volume. An employee mopping the floor knocked something over and exclaimed, "Oh shit!" All of this served to prove my theory that, even at a fancy French restaurant in a classy hotel, the rules of decorum don't apply between 3 and 6 a.m.

click to enlarge DOUBLE VISION: A lovely bartender at International Bowl, where drinks are poured 'til almost 4 a.m. - COLEY WARD
  • DOUBLE VISION: A lovely bartender at International Bowl, where drinks are poured 'til almost 4 a.m.

3 a.m., Fri., Sept. 30

I decided to revisit Underground on a night when it was open later than other bars in Atlanta. I wanted to find out if Underground was in fact catching the spill-over from the other Atlanta bars that close earlier.

First, a bit of advice: When you go to Underground on a Friday night, you can wear that comfortable gray sweatshirt you only put on when you're at home on your couch watching B-movies, because you aren't going to see anybody you know. In fact, you'll be lucky to see anybody at all.

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