Tony Poe, the owner of Atlas Bar at 1224 Main St., where the Arkansas Times in 2019 celebrated its return to a magazine format and which was closed by coronavirus restrictions, will not reopen. Poe put the following message on social media, accompanied by the photo above:
We are sad to announce that as of July 1st Atlas Bar will be permanently closed. Many heartfelt thanks to all of our staff, supporters, neighbors, friends and family. It was a great journey! SoMa will always hold a special place in our hearts and we hope you will all continue to support our Main Street neighbors.
A shame. This comes just as the block hopes to open an entertainment district to increase business by allowing folks to enjoy a libation with their takeout orders in tents across the street, at 13th and Main streets.
Imaginative craft cocktails, red leather high back barstools, and glowing red light behind the bar made for an inviting addition to the strip that houses South on Main, Midtown Billiards, Raduno and Mockingbird Bar & Tacos. It wasn’t an easy decision for Poe. Owning a bar was his lifelong dream, but the pandemic didn’t leave him any other choice.
“It finally hit me that I’m bleeding cash. I’m not having any real luck finding investors in this environment who want to step up and partner with me, and obviously, banks aren’t lending,” Poe said. “So, finally, I just thought, I’ve just got to cut my losses. I just don’t see any other way, you know? It’s just the cold, hard reality of our environment right now. And I hate it, but I can’t look back. When I look back I like to think of the good times, and we had a hell of a ride. And I’m really proud of my staff. I’m really proud of the reception that Little Rock gave us, which kind of surprised me in a way. People who embraced the concept really, really got it. And I’m gratified for that. And I’m sad that I can’t reopen.”
Poe doesn’t know if he’ll ever own a bar again, but he won’t rule it out. He’s exploring other opportunities that may keep him here, but he’s had careers all over the world, and there are opportunities he might explore elsewhere.
“It’s hard; I can’t even see that far in advance,” he said. “I’m just trying to shake the dust off and get back on my feet, and we’ll see what happens.
“It’s kind of hard to be positive right now, but I always try to look on the bright side. There’s always something positive in whatever situation that you’re in. I’m 52, I’ve been down before and I’ve gotten back up and I’ve succeeded again. While I don’t know what’s next, I know that it’s going to be good. It’s going to be okay.”
“It had a great vibe,” Poe said. “It’s a beautiful space. It’s heartbreaking, you know. It’s bittersweet. It’s not what I wanted, but life throws you curveballs and here we are. I do have a little bit of peace of mind knowing that I’m not alone. There are a lot of other people in my position and there are a lot of other people in worse situations. The way I look at this whole pandemic thing is: We’re all in this together. We’re human beings. We’re resilient. We can get through this. We have just got to keep our chin up and do the best we can to support each other.”
Regardless of where Poe ends up, he wants SoMa to continue to flourish.
“SoMa’s a great neighborhood, and it has so much potential and I just want to see that area succeed. That’s why I requested [on social media] that anybody who was a fan of Atlas, keep supporting our neighbors. It’s like a family down there, you know? I want to spread that word. Keep SoMa going. I don’t know. I don’t know what else to say, I’m a little emotional right now.”