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Thursday, Oct 28, 2021

Thirsty Turtle takes place of former LGBTQ bar

The Mill stands closed with all of its signage remove just after a week of shutting its doors.
The Mill stands closed with all of its signage remove just after a week of shutting its doors.

The Mill, Macon’s only downtown LGBTQ bar, closed its doors early last month unexpectedly. The Thirsty Turtle will take the club’s place.

Many took to Facebook and social media trying to figure out what happened to the Mill or to express their frustration

One Facebook user wrote, “What happened? I went out of town for a few weeks and come back to find The Mill closed? “

Another user replied, “They closed down to get us gay’s out!!!”

The Mill had only been operating as a gay bar for about five months before it shut down.

“I’m pretty good at running a bar and not so good at running a nightclub,” said Tim Obelgoner, owner of the Mill.

He said that the bar did not close down because of its attachments to the LGBTQ community, but because it was not profiting well.

“It’s strictly financial,” said Obelgoner, who also owns the Hummingbird downtown.

The weekly entertainment was also costly.

Obelgoner said only about 100 patrons were willing to attend on a regular basis and that was not working for a nightclub that size.

“Tim just had different business interests [and] he just wanted to completely redo, because at the end of the day . . . he still has to make money,” said Bentley Hudgins, a former Mill employee.

The Mill consisted of a front room with a bar, a dance room with a stage and a bar in the back.

“That’s a very hard place to tackle structurally,” said Hudgins.

Obelgoner said a much smaller venue for a LGBTQ bar would service the community better in Middle Georgia.

“What we were doing was not appealing to a broad enough segment of the population to make it financially viable,” Obelgoner said.

He said he felt the bar was not servicing the Middle Georgia community well.

“If there was a huge gay population here that wanted specifically a gay bar, by golly I’d be the first one to open one up,” he said.

Obelgoner, who identifies as a heterosexual male, said he is a strong advocate for LGBTQ equality.

He also is a supporter of inclusiveness.

“We (Obelgoner and his staff) have been very successful in creating an environment that a lot of different people from different walks of life can feel comfortable in and feel a part of,” Obelgoner said.

He said The Mill was exclusive, and he was unhappy about it.

Obelgoner said he received a lot of different complaints about the Mill, but it was his gay friends who raised many of the concerns.

They told Obelgoner that he was seeking a very narrow market in Macon and would not find enough patrons.

The Thirsty Turtle, which is across from the Hummingbird on Cherry Street, will allow patrons the opportunity to easily visit both of Obelgoner’s bars on a given night.

The new bar — which opened Thursday for St. Patrick’s Day — will remain under the same ownership, but it will be branded as an all-inclusive venue.

It will be a non-smoking facility with an outdoor patio, foosball tables, projector screens and pool tables.

Obelgoner said he is excited for the community both bars could create together downtown.

“I’m just tickled to death,” Obelgoner said about the venture for the new bar.



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