The five-story brick building now known as Hotel Clermont, at the corner of Atlanta’s Ponce de Leon and Bonaventure avenues, has lived many lives. What began as the Bonaventure Arms Apartments in 1924 soon evolved into the Clermont Motor Lodge, a hotel with a lively basement that played host to a handful of nightclubs—the Gypsy Room, the Anchorage Club, and the Jungle Room, among others. In 1968 the subterranean space found a long-term tenant in what would eventually become an Atlanta institution: the Clermont Lounge, a seedy yet beloved strip club that you have to experience to fully understand. And though the Clermont Motor Lodge officially closed in 2009, the Lounge kept the lights on while a team of developers restored the building into the newly opened Hotel Clermont, remodeling the guest rooms into vibrant midcentury-tinged gems and preserving the distinctive rooftop radio tower and neon sign—as well as the destination strip club below. “To us, it was very important that the Lounge stayed,” says Philip Welker, a co-owner of Oliver Hospitality, the Nashville-based hotel and restaurant company that owns the property. “But we were careful to not try to intervene with it—or even bring upstairs into the hotel. We wanted let the Lounge stay itself.”
Welker and his associates worked with the National Parks Service, the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, and local architecture firm Gamble & Gamble to renovate the rest of the building, while maintaining key aspects of the original structure—with a few added upgrades. Now, hotel guests who aren’t quite ready to venture down to the basement can sip cocktails at an expansive rooftop bar, dine on French fare such as pommes frites and Vidalia onion soup at Tiny Lou’s (named for a 1950s dancer that headlined the Gypsy Room), or grab a cappuccino to-go at the cheerful Café Clermont.
But these amenities aren’t just for out-of-towners. Welker and the Hotel Clermont team hope that the landmark will remain an important part of the neighborhood. “The property’s got a lot of spirit to it,” Welker says. “We felt that. We loved the community it was a part of. If the hotel means something to the locals, we feel like it will mean something to people visiting, too.”