by: Wendy Corona Updated:
ATLANTA - After four decades in business, an Atlanta institution is closing at the end of this month.
Tucked away off Peachtree Road, amid a cluster of high rises lies Dante’s Down the Hatch.
“This place has been my life for 43 years,” said owner Dante Stephensen.
If you miss the sign, you may miss out on a unique dining experience.
“It’s like a mini-Disneyland in some ways,” said patron Dena Feldman.
It’s nautical-themed, complete with the fake pirate crew and a real crocodile. It’s been in operation since 1969.
“About 86 to 92 hours a week I'm here. I'm on the floor every night,” Stephensen said.
But July 31 will be his last night. Stephensen’s city and county tax bill has priced him out of business.
“We’re being taxed for the building that isn’t built here, because the county wants another high rise,” he said.
He said he understands where the city and county are coming from.
“That's more taxes for them. It's the role of counties and cities to make as much money on taxes as they can to run their government. I don't deny that. I support that,” said Stephensen.
Neighboring high rises, including Lenox Plaza, Lenox Towers, Monarch Plaza and the Ritz, valued in the tens of millions, bring in substantial six to seven figures of tax revenue. Stephensen’s tax bill was just under $90,000 for 2012.
“They kindly have taxed me as if I was a high rise and said, ‘If you don't like it, get out.’ That's not a quote, but that's basically a feeling I got from the county,” he said.
Stephensen said he will look for a new location and has a self-imposed deadline of mid-September.
“I have to find that place soon or I have committed everything to be sold at auction,” he said.