You might think a bar is a place to party, with its own decor of vinyl, vinyl tiles, vinyl tables and neon lights, right? Wrong. We have to go through a long process of elimination when we talk about a hip-hop bar. It takes years: A bar owner in the hood would have to understand, and love, that one thing rappers hate, and so this is the bar he or she makes the most of. A bar that does something great in one location may not do so consistently. So while it might not sound that interesting to get the rapper to come into your living room, get the bartender to make a great cold brew for him or her, and then make the hip-hop bars you live in a living, breathing, community.
How have you started the “Hip-Hop Bar Project?”
When we opened Urban Grill in 2013, we had two goals: to transform all the bars in the neighborhood that do the best things. And the way all the other rap bars in the hood have made it, if you don’t have music, you don’t feel good. So from the very beginning we asked ourselves: “What are the best places in the hood that are creating a positive experience? And what are some places that don’t get these things done but are doing it with effort and love and attention?” And we didn’t have any guidelines. We just needed to create spaces that looked great—and that was a challenge—and that allowed us be creative with all of our menu choices. And our bar staff—from the bartender to the front of house, all of the way down to the staff who makes the drinks—that’s the backbone of Urban Grill. They’ve put up with many, many, many days to make sure everything was done right. Everything about Urban Grill that we wanted to do was a part of the project: creating a space that people were going to come back to. We wanted to have an experience.
What inspired you to pursue this project?
We’ve been friends for several years, and I came on as an advisor for this project in the first couple weeks. But it was really a personal journey for me, because I grew up in the neighborhood, and I know what life there is like there. Even during the holidays, even on my off days, it’s not a place I’m used to going to.
When I first moved to Atlanta from Florida in 2005, there really wasn’t anything to do but get
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