The Jungle, 2004–2017
At four feet in diameter, Backstreet nightclub proudly held the largest disco ball in the Southeast. Located at 845 Peachtree Street in Midtown, Backstreet was a 24-hour dance club, bar, cabaret, and entertainment center composed of three levels and 10,000 square feet. First installed over the club’s dance floor in 1977, the iconic disco ball oversaw 27 years of changing dance tunes before Backstreet closed in 2004.
In 2003, the City of Atlanta denied renewal of the club’s 24-hour liquor license. It was the only all-day bar left in the city, thus its motto: Always Open and Always Pouring. When the license expired in 2004, Backstreet closed and transferred much of its interior and patrons to The Jungle, a bar off Cheshire Bridge Road. It remained there until development pushed it out of the leased space in 2017.
For many in the LGBTQ+ community, the disco ball represents more than the dancing and partying that are often associated with it. It also embodies a period of deeply closeted men and women. In other dance clubs, bars, and some restaurants, gays and lesbians found safe spaces to build community, attain emotional support, and simply have the freedom to be themselves.
With today’s social media and online resources, it can be difficult to understand such clubs as a fundamental source of personal expression and validation as well as comfort and friendship. Under this disco ball, men and women in Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ community and those from throughout the South, found compassion, companionship, and love.
Gift of Vicki Vara, 2017
Backstreet was owned and operated by the Vara family, first by founders Carmine and Janice Vara. They were followed by their children, Vicki, John and Henry, who managed the club for over 20 years.