• Dante's Down the Hatch to remain open

    By: Craig Lucie


    ATLANTA - A 43-year-old Atlanta institution may not be closing its doors anytime soon.

    The owner of Dante's Down the Hatch told Channel 2's Craig Lucie that the deal to build luxury condos fell through for now.

    The developer told Lucie that they are running into some entitlement issues.

    "It's been very traumatic for me," Dante Stephensen told Lucie.

    For 43 years, Stephensen has entertained people from all over the world at his iconic jazz lounge and fondue restaurant.

    The past three months have not been easy on him.

    "This place was built by craftsman. It shouldn't be torn down," Stephensen told Lucie.

    By looking around the restaurant, many can see why. There is a pirate's ship in the middle of it with a moat below with his pet crocodile named Pinocchio getting an artificial tan from heat lamps.

    Three months ago is when Atlantic Realty Partners announced they were buying his restaurant and building a 10-story luxury condo in its place.

    Stephensen said that deal just fell through.

    "They didn't have all their due diligence done, so the closing just didn't take place. They didn't have their homework done," Stephensen said.

    We reached out to Atlantic Realty Partners and Richard Aaronson told Lucie that discussions are still underway.

    He said there were issues with the city of Atlanta's approval process and complications with the permitting process.

    "All it does is eliminates the March 31 closing. So customers ask 'when you going to close?' I don't know. I'm not going to ask," Stephensen said.

    When I asked if that cost him a lot of money, he said no.

    "We weren't for sale. They approached us. Three different people did. The deal was too good to turn down," Stephensen explained.

    For his staff, like Robert Shields, who has been working there for 25 years, this failed deal is nothing new.

    "It's kind of like a roller-coaster ride. The emotions are up and down. It's kind of bittersweet maybe like I said, I hate to see it leave, but we always get offers on the property all the time. You never know if they'll happen or if another deal is just going to fall through," Shields told Lucie.

    Dante said in the end everything will work out. He says he is not ready to retire nor is his dedicated staff. They have a combined 183 years working together and they hope that number continues to grow.

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