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Southside Steve's shuts down after five years

"Southside" Steve Rickman with his fiance Amanda
Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

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"Southside" Steve Rickman of the Regular Guys announced on Rock 100.5 this morning that he had closed his Southside Steve's bar in McDonough after five years.

He said the final night was this past Saturday but provided no details on why he and his partners did so. The website www.southsidesteves.com is currently not available but the bar's Facebook page is still up.

Rickman opened the bar five years ago as a way to expand his brand as the fun-loving, party-going guy that he is. Rickman has been part of the Regular Guys for much of the past 15 years and he became an official full-fledged "Regular Guy" when the show moved to Rock 100.5 in 2008. His role on the show has been elevated the past couple of years.

UPDATE on Tuesday: I finally got a hold of Rickman late Tuesday afternoon. He said he was mentally exhausted Monday.

In the end, he said he and his partners couldn't make consistent money and while he owned the property, he didn't have the time to run the operations on a daily basis since he has a full-time job with the Regular Guys. 

"I am not the bookkeeper," he said. "I am a promo guy, a concept guy, the image guy. Running a bar is tough. You don't realize how many expenses you have. The music you play. The ice machine. A million things chip away at your bottom line."

Rickman said he regrets the lost sleep and cash he'll never get back but not the fact he got to own a bar for five years. "I had plenty of good times there," he said. "I had an awesome crew. The 40 beautiful girls there worked their butt off. For every handshake and every dollar spent there, it was worth it. It's like a divorce. It's tough to walk away."

Rickman hopes to take the concept of Southside Steve's and franchise the "Smokey and the Bandit" concept, most likely closer to Atlanta. "These five years have been a learning experience," he said. "I have built a brand."

His partners Tony and Tina Davenport chose to shut things down this past Saturday night, he said, with no advance announcement. If employees and customers knew it was the last night, he believed chaos may have ensued, saying it's a no no in the bar business. He said he knew it was coming but didn't  know this past Saturday would be the final night until he saw the news after the fact on Facebook.

On Monday afternoon, I was able to first track down Chris Speed, a friend of Rickman's who ran Southside Steve's for a good portion of the bar's five years of existence. (He was originally the security guy but Rickman moved him up to general manager after a year.)

Speed said Rickman had an initial financial partner who pulled out about two years ago. Rickman found the Davenports o help him out. Speed said they were initially silent partners but ultimately pushed Rickman to steer the bar more hip-hop than rock. Speed said this didn't help matters.  "We only started leaning in that direction when they got involved," he said.

While the bar did well for a time, increased competition with other bars in Henry County also impacted business the past two years and made it tougher to run it profitably, Speed added.

Tina Davenport, one of Rickman's financial partners, said shutting the bar down was a mutual decision. She blamed its downfall on the economy and competing bars. "It's heartbreaking," she said. "I cried for two days. We made some great friends and great memories. Steve is a hell of a guy. I love him with all my heart.  He's the most honest Southern gentleman I know. There was no fighting, no nothing. We were one big family at the bar."

"A bar changes every day," she added. "You don't know any given night whether to play country or hip hop or rock. It depends on the group that comes out that night. But people are struggling. Should they go out or buy diapers or pay the rent?"

On Google, 18 reviewers gave the bar an average of 3.2 stars out of 5.

Michael Escobar, a DJ there, post this note  on his Facebook page Monday morning:

By now everyone has heard that Southside Steve's Bar closed it's doors for the last time this past weekend... But we all know when one door closes another opens... I will truly miss rocking out every Friday night with my southside crew! I just want to thank Tony Davenport & Tina Davenport for the opportunity they gave me to be their Friday night DJ for the past year and a half! I also want to give a big shout out to the staff who I will miss tremendously but I am sure we will cross each others paths in the near future! Jordan Lewis, Suhmer Simonds, John Wayne, Stephen Riddle, Alicia Brown, Eden Carlton, Megan Griffith, Haley Earwood, Stefanie BlakeFabian Blake

Frank Ski, former V-103 morning host, opened a restaurant in his own name in Buckhead in 2011. His restaurant remains open even after he spends much of his time now in D.C. hosting an afternoon show at WHUR-FM. He is still under a one-year non-compete which prevents him from being on Atlanta radio for another month.

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