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Juke Joint offers visitors true taste of Georgia

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Recently, visitors passing through Concourse D at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have been greeted by the smoky aroma of spare ribs and the sounds of Ray Charles, the Allman Brothers Band, James Brown, and other artists who have made Georgia famous.

Since March of this year, Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint has been offering busy travelers and frequent fliers a place to relax in an environment which has Georgia on it's mind.

Terry Harps, president of Global Concessions, Inc., which owns Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint and eleven other stores inside the airport, said creating the bar was part of an effort by the airport to create more restaurants that convey "a sense of place."

"We wanted to create a place that features some of the icons of Atlanta, Ga., and the Southeast," said Harps. "Juke joints started in the 1860s as a place primarily for African Americans to hang out. They were always known for music and a good time, so we wanted passengers to come into the restaurant and have a good time."

"Chas," an Atlanta-based mural artist traveled around the state of Georgia to capture the images used in the mural above the bar. To give it a more southern feel, he incorporated themes such as a Macon road sign, the "Big Chicken" in Marietta, and the likeness of several Georgia musicians.

The restaurant offers several southern dishes, including pork ribs in a tangy, signature sauce, pulled, smoked-chicken sandwiches, and the Sea Dog -- a battered codfish fillet served with slaw on top of a hot-dog bun. The bar also serves signature drinks, such as the "Ike and Tina," playfully labeled, "One smooth drink with a punch," and stronger drinks, such as "Georgia Hooch."

One of the most unique features of the bar, however, is the jukebox, which contains more than 1,200 carefully picked songs, whittled down from a list of the top 50 songs from 1960 to 1999. Baby-boomers and Gen-Xers can listen to their favorite tunes for as long as they want, free of charge.

General Manager Frednetta Brown said the new bar and restaurant has exceeded the airport's expectations and has already developed a small base of regular visitors.

"Our business is doing well," said Brown. "We've had celebrities come in, we've had people get engaged here ... some people have missed their flight hanging out in here."

Brown said in addition to offering Keno and other Georgia Lottery games, the restaurant regularly features a local blues guitarist to entertain mid-day fliers.

"Sometimes, people have two- to four-hour layovers and they are bored," said Brown. "We try to create a place that creates memories."

Chavis Sealy, office administrator of Global Concessions, Inc., described Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint as the "crown jewel" of the company's restaurants. She hopes the restaurant will spread to other airports, but maintain its quaint character.

"I would consider it almost a 'Cheers' atmosphere," said Sealy. "It's a really happy place to be. It's small in size, but if it was any bigger, it would lose it's charisma and character."