Backstreet packs it in; Armory's next

Vicki Vara, co-owner of Backstreet. Photo Jim Stawniak/CL 2004
Photo credit: Jim Stawniak/CL
Vicki Vara, co-owner of Backstreet.

It's official: Backstreet is history.

The owners of Atlanta's best-known all-hours nightclub have thrown in the towel on their effort to secure a license to reopen Backstreet after the club was closed by city officials in mid-July. Instead, owners and siblings Vicki and Henry Vara will sell off the club's furnishings and lighting systems in a "going out of business sale" this weekend.

"I'm tired of fighting," Vicki Vara told CL on Sept. 21.

Vara says she's in negotiations to sell the club at 845 Peachtree St., near Sixth Street, as well as the adjoining buildings that contain the Armory, another gay nightclub owned by the Varas, and Loca Luna, a Latin-themed restaurant.

While Loca Luna still has about eight years left on its lease, Vara doesn't expect the Armory to remain in operation as a nightclub after she sells the 47,000-square-foot property. Business has fallen off at her second club since the closing of Backstreet, she says.

The Varas' problems began last year, when the city won a three-year legal battle to strip Backstreet, Club 112 and the Riviera of their status as 24-hour nightclubs. As of Jan. 1, Backstreet stopped serving alcohol but remained open as an around-the-clock disco. On July 16, the club was busted for operating without a business license and had remained closed while its owners struggled to obtain a permit.

Later that month, the city's License Review Board denied the Varas' request to turn Backstreet into a restaurant and cabaret with bar service. Although Mayor Shirley Franklin still has time to veto the board's decision, Vara is not holding out hope. Instead, Vicki says, she's getting out of the Atlanta bar business.

At the club's yard sale — starting at 1 p.m. Sept. 25 and 26 in the back parking lot off Juniper Street — she expects to sell off the club's hot dog cart, its deck furniture, various memorabilia and even pieces of its well-worn dance floor.

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