Originally created 10/12/03

Decor gets mixed reviews



The quartet of white rocking chairs overlooking the first floor only add to the Southern mood inside General Beauregard's, owners of the month-old East Clayton Street bar said this week.

So do the brick-red walls adorned with large mirrors and framed Confederate currency.

And, the owners say, so do the three flags hanging over the bar, the most prominent of which is the St. Andrew's Cross, a symbol of the Confederacy.

Since its opening, the bar named for a Civil War general has met with mixed reviews from University of Georgia students and visitors to Athens.

And now a UGA student organization, the Black Affairs Council, is taking action. A group whose aim is to increase racial awareness at UGA and in Athens, the council is planning a discussion with the owners of General Beauregard's as early as next week.

"I just kind of want to understand their end. I don't want to put them under attack," said Landon Williams, the vice president of the Black Affairs Council. "I don't feel it's very progressive (to fly the Confederate flag). I feel it's taking a step backward."

Gardner Dominick, a co-owner of General Beauregard's, disagreed.

The flag simply is an expression of Southern heritage, he said, one to which many UGA students can relate.

"People have said basically 'the flag rocks,"' he said. "We like it, and our patrons like it. So we're not going to take it down."

Mr. Dominick said he and co-owner Daniel Simmons, a 2000 UGA graduate, have received only positive feedback about their new business venture. The pair say the bar's decor is tasteful, and is not meant to support slavery or make a political statement.

"There's no hidden agendas," Mr. Dominick said. "We serve a lot of whiskey and play a lot of country music. That's all."

But students such as Mr. Williams contend the flag carries a negative connotation, one that supports slavery.

"The Southern states wanted to secede because they wanted to keep slavery," Mr. Williams said. "The flag represents that."

For other black students, including Black Affairs Council President Willie Mazyck, the Confederate flag isn't so much offensive as it is unnecessary.

"It doesn't bother me personally, but it does bother other minorities," Mr. Mazyck said. "There's just a negative vibe you get from (the flag). It kind of makes you feel minorities aren't welcome there."

Nothing could be further from the truth, Mr. Dominick said. In fact, he said, students of all races often are found drinking in his bar.

Of dozens of patrons stuffed inside General Beauregard's midnight Thursday, one was black. But the 2002 UGA graduate said the Confederate flag and the Southern decor are not offensive.

"It's kind of like television. If you don't like a show, you change the channel," said Calvin Wilson, a graduate student visiting from Atlanta. "If you don't like this bar, then you should just go somewhere else."