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Southern Comfort R.I.P.

Atlanta's last original honky-tonk has closed its doors

It looked like a scene from Roadhouse — all but the green laser lights slicing through the fog of cigarette smoke and the color-changing SoCo sign hanging as a backdrop to the dance floor. And no Patrick Swayze.

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Nov. 29 was an unusually warm Sunday night as a sea of people packed every nook and crevice of Southern Comfort, the beloved truck-stop bar in Conley, Ga., just outside southeast Atlanta. The one thing on partygoers' minds was this is may or may not be the final hurrah.

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As of Tuesday morning (Dec. 1), after more than three decades, SoCo is closed for business. George Jones, owner of the bar for 26 years, says negotiations are ongoing but declined to say the potential buyer's name.

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Last week, Tommy Lee, SoCo's Sunday night karaoke host, posted to Facebook saying the honky-tonk was closing and urged patrons to swing by for one last historical shindig as a final farewell. The night before the big party, Lee updated his post saying SoCo wasn't closing but was getting new owners. He still asked everyone to come out and show support.

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Lee says the interested party claimed to have won the lottery a few years back. However, the deal wasn't finalized because the buyer didn't have the funds to make the purchase.

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Lee says the cash from Sunday night karaoke has been carrying the bar for the past 10 years. But the cost of keeping the place open outweighed incoming funds. Jones has been living in a trailer behind the bar in a last-ditch effort to keep the place open.

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For the moment, although the bar is closed, Jones will continue to hold on to the property. "George wants it to stay a bar," Lee says. "He needs the money, but he doesn't want to sell it to just anybody. George wants to keep it going that way, but nobody like that has stepped up yet."

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SoCo regular Connie Woolard, who has frequented the bar for 30 years, says for her husband's 60th birthday Jones helped her surprise him with a new motorcycle. "I bought my husband a Harley Davidson. George covered it up to hide it so when we got there he couldn't see it. The band played a couple of sets before we rode it out on the floor," Woolard says. "I'm sad to see it close."

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Cole Alexander, Dunwoody native and singer and lead guitarist with local garage punk outfit Black Lips, compared SoCo to Atlanta staples such as the Clermont Lounge — only less stripper and more trucker. Black Lips played a sold-out show on SoCo's stage in 2011 with Turf War and Vivian Girls. Before learning about the bar's closing, Alexander said Atlanta really needs SoCo for its "true character."

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"I've traveled all over the world and it's one of my favorite bars I've ever been to," he says.

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After hearing the news about the bar's fate, his response was short: "Fuck."




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