Sunday, December 26, 2010

Winnipeg Makes Me Reflect on Atlanta: The Death of Lenny's Bar

As I watch sideways flying snow swoop past my window I am looking at Atlanta differently.  Although I always say I love Atlanta, sometimes I do take it for granted.  Winnipeg gave me some perspective on this.  As I was over-joyed to take photos of where "Wellingtons" used to be on Albert Street in Winnipeg, Canada, I then come home to find out that one of our oldest rock dives will see it's last day on New Years.

Original Location on Memorial Drive
Have I taken this place for granted?  Lenny's (formerly and maybe more notoriously called Dottie's) has been a staple in the Atlanta music scene for longer than I have lived here.  I saw Bradford Cox's Deerhunter play one of their first shows there.  Cat Power and Janelle Monea have played this nasty "double wide" trailer turned music venue with the shittiest sound system in the South.  People think the Royal Albert Arms in scuzzy.  Lenny's looked like it was condemmed in the 70's.  I doubt anything was fixed or improved since then.  So, if I am romantisizing Wellington's and the Albert in Winnipeg, how do I feel about the death of Lenny's in Atlanta.

Lenny's changed names, locations and character a few years ago.  And honestly, it was hard to buy into the new look/feel.  However nasty the original location was, it's character was basically all it had holding it's walls together.  I could never feel the heartbeat of the new location... though they did transport the shitty sound somehow, even with a new sound system.

It's the cover story of our weekly magazine.  Many of the people interviewed I have known for years.  The ones that I don't know, I think to myself that I should.  I claim this town.  I am proud of it's music.  I exclaim this from the rooftops and say it on Canadian radio.  So, now with a new perspective, I feel like I took Lenny's for granted.  But Lenny (and Dottie) wouldn't likely give a shit either way.

I should let the storytellers of Lenny's tell the story.  They will do it better than I.   After all, I only played both locations a hand full of times combined.   Still, I am glad I did.

Sometimes you have to get away from your home to appreciate it.  Especially if when you get home part of it is gone.

The entrance was on the side.  I never actual noticed the front door.

Lenny's second location on On Boulevard @ Dekalb Ave.

From 2006


  1. Andy, you really are a fine writer.
    As a Winnipegger, after reading this I'm sorry I never got to experience Lenny's.


  2. Ah thank you so much for the nice compliment. I try. Writing this blog has really made me up the quantity of my writing, so it has been an interesting challenge.

    Lenny's was an experience. A true dive. But it kinda lost it soul when it moved locations anyways, so for most the loss already happened a couple of years ago.

    Thanks again for reading!

  3. There was a Lenny's in Winnipeg that disappeared about a decade ago. Lenny's Blues Bar. It was on Main St. just a block down from where the iconic Blue Note once stood. Only the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome club remains from that short stretch of road, and the Windsor ("the Home of the Blues")two blocks to the west on Garry still remains after a fight to "save the Windsor" earlier this year.

    Lenny's was torn down for a Hotel, and the Blue Note moved temporarily to Portage Ave. were it became more of a restaurant than a club, and folded shortly thereafter. The original location on Main St. became a restaurant, and now sits vacant and in disrepair. Kind of a sad outcome for a place that helped to launch the career of Neil Young. That is the changing face a music though. It's supply and demand like everything else.

    Thanks for the great blog. We are a city with low self esteem so we always appreciate reading the perspective of an outsider. :-)

    Cheers .. C

  4. Ah, interesting. I guess we all have a "Lenny's" People have mixed feelings about this one in Atlanta. It was really a dump. But it was so much of a dump that this became it's character.

    Ha, Yes. Winnipeg may have trouble loving itself, but I have no problem telling everyone that I love it!

  5. @Cherenkov - Correction: The Blue Note had nothing to do with launching Neil Young's career, I believe it was only in existence for the 80s and 90s. Neil did drop in for a show at the Blue Note maybe in 1987. Earl Grey and Crescentwood community clubs come to mind as important places in Neil Young's nascent career phase. (side note: sometimes I'll walk down Grosvenor and Rockwood to the Crescentwood CC, trying to retrace those old footsteps)

    I don't remember the Winnipeg "Lenny's" but the hotel that replaced it sure is fugly. But man, do I ever miss Wellingtons....

    The St. Charles Hotel, home of the former Wellingtons can be seen in the film Capote.
    Also, the Albert can be spotted in the 2003 version of 'Shall We Dance". So you may have seen these venues important to the Weakerthans before without realizing it.