Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Historic District has seen better days. It was walloped by the 2008 tornado, suffered significantly during the recession, and a year-and-a-half delay on construction of the Atlanta Streetcar left parts of the area a mess as businesses took the hit. But it’s making a comeback, thanks in part to two lesbian party promoters.
Melissa Scott, founder of Traxx Girls, and CJ Jones of Blue Diamond Entertainment have partnered up with Pal’s Lounge owner and local musician Devon Woodson to rename and rebrand the longtime lounge and music venue as Soul Bar at Pal’s Lounge.
Soul Bar opened in November, and the proprietors and staff are busy serving up drinks, showing off their new menu, and giving live music fans a place to call home. Georgia Voice sat down with Scott on a recent Wednesday afternoon at the rebooted venue as pictures of civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X watch over us—we are on the street that Dr. King was born on, after all.
Scott opens up about how the venture came to fruition, future plans for the space and how this project affects her involvement in Black Gay Pride.
So Melissa, how did you get involved in the creation of Soul Bar?
I knew I wanted to have a business on Auburn Avenue in general. One of my good business partners, Peter Thomas [entrepreneur and husband of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Cynthia Bailey], used to own Bar One and he moved his business across the street. I wanted to be around him. He brings a good energy wherever he is.
How much about the venue did you change as it morphed into Soul Bar?
It’s like a 2030 Pal’s [laughs]. But it still has the soul of the old Pal’s Lounge. It’s new, it’s trendy, but it’s old and fly still. It’s the same space, just polished over. We kept the original bar, added some hashtags [that cover a panel of the wall next to the bar], we did some different textures.
The main thing is the food. The last two weeks we’ve been focusing on getting the food to taste right and taste consistent no matter who the chef is. We worked with Natasha Wong who was the head chef over at Bar One. She consulted here and helped us get it in a structure that made sense for the business.
We also need somewhere to take our girls on Sundays. Our business partner Devon needs somewhere for his band [Royal] to play. We have a ton of DJ friends that just want to play. We’ve got the hookah here so you can come and chill.
The outdoor patio is huge. What’s the ETA on that being ready?
That’s a summertime venue. I have two completely different visions for it. I have it where it’s definitely overflow for this space and where it’s definitely a performance space.
But also, if it’s Monday at 11:30 p.m. in April and I choose to sit outside, I sit outside, maybe watching the streetcar. It should be transparent from the outside to the inside so you look in and it’s cabanas and margarita machines and umbrellas and I’ll have the dog bowls out there and a bike rack out there. I want it to be a space that’s exciting to sit on.
You’re known for your work with Traxx Girls and Black Gay Pride, but is this the first physical space you’ve owned?
In different capacities. Like, I own a nightclub in Augusta, Georgia, but I don’t run it. This is the first one that my hands are completely in that I’m running.
And what’s that experience been like?
I can’t sleep [laughs]. I’ll be tired and be like, ‘No! This needs to happen now!’ It’s fun, it’s a good time waking up.
Do you plan on having any specific girl nights here?
Sunday already is. It is what it is. We’re gay so our friends will be here. It’s funny, somebody added me on Instagram and was like, ‘I’m posting pictures of this gay bar.’ I’m like, ‘It’s a people bar. Everybody’s welcome here.’
Do you still plan on being as big a part of Black Gay Pride?
Yeah! Here’s the thing. All year, when we’re meeting up at different places to talk about [Black Gay Pride], we can meet here as a central location. If we need food catered, I’m catering food here now.
I used to rent party buses from people all over the place and I added up what I was spending on them, so I went and bought a party bus company. Different things can compensate for other things I do with my business life. Everything I do in my life kind of ties together and comes full circle at some point. [Soul Bar] just makes sense.
Soul Bar at Pal’s Lounge
254 Auburn Ave.