The EARL is a popular alternative music venue in Atlanta, Georgia, located on Flat Shoals Avenue in the neighborhood of East Atlanta. The Earl was opened in 1999 by John Searson, a long-time Atlanta resident but a newcomer to the restaurant and live entertainment business. The restaurant and club has grown into one of the city's favorite neighborhood bars and live music venues.
The building at 488 Flat Shoals Avenue was being used to store mattresses when Searson signed the lease with the intention of transforming the space into a club and lounge. Much of the business was built by hand, with licensed contractors called in when needed. Even now, the interior of the building reflects Searson's bare-knuckled approach to the business. The bar is made out of a tree which fell on his property while he building the bar.
At the time, the neighborhood was rapidly gentrifying, but wasn't anywhere near as safe as it is now. The front window had two bullet holes from a scuffle in the street. Searson let a friend sleep in the back to protect the property from any local criminals. The restaurant's opening was a source of intrigue in the neighborhood, with residents pestering Searson to learn when it would be opened. The slow pace of the work prompted him to post a sign on the door saying it would be open when it was open.