By Brooke Hutchins | Photography by Marcus Krause
They might be known as the bad boys of Atlanta’s nightclub industry, but with the anniversary celebration for their twentieth successful year in business launching tonight, it’s clear that Michael Krohngold and Scott Strumlauf of Tongue & Groove, Atlanta’s longest running nightclub, are doing something right. Atlanta natives, Krohngold and Strumlauf graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University in the 1980s, but plans to pursue technical and medical careers were thwarted by a mutual love for Atlanta nightlife after they realized bartending and doorman jobs at local clubs could lead to lucrative opportunities in the nightclub scene. Krohngold managed an alternative, grungy underground dance club throughout the ’80s, and went on to open several bars and clubs in both Atlanta and Athens, Ga. Heading down a similar path, Strumlauf opened several 18+ nightclubs and college bars in the Buckhead area before being introduced to Krohngold through a mutual friend.
At the height of the dot-com era in the early 1990s, Tongue & Groove began to take shape with the need for an upscale nightclub in the city. “There was a niche for something that wasn’t a crazy, loud, dark club,” Krohngold explains. “We wanted to place an emphasis on the interior: beautiful lounge chairs and high-end, sleek design. It was more about the art of conversational spaces.” As Buckhead began to take shape as a high-profile area, Tongue & Groove opened their doors to men and women dressed to the nines in suit coats, heels and expensive handbags during a time when the club scene was all about getting yourself seen.
Understanding this important aesthetic element of nightlife, Krohngold took over the marketing, imaging, design and creative side of the business. Strumlauf, on the other hand, handles more of the financial, business and legal aspects. “We compliment each other well. I watch the back side; Michael watches the front side,” Strumlauf says. And behind them is a team of seasoned veterans (one bartender has been with them since they opened), as well as young, hot rookies with impressive social media followings. Although it might look like a big party from the outside, Strumlauf reveals that a big part of the club’s success is their constant participation in the business at all times. “I don’t think we get caught up in the party stereotype associated with nightclubs,” he says. “We take it from a business side first, and the partying comes secondary.”
But what has always really driven Tongue & Groove is the music. Today, the club is constantly evolving along with the evolution of popular sounds — from hip-hop, to EDM and everything in between. This attention to changing trends works to the club’s advantage, allowing the Tongue & Groove brand to appeal to the masses without giving the club a specific label. “People are always looking for fads in the club,” Krohngold admits. “And it’s up to us to be purveyors of cool without being too bleeding edge.” But one aspect of this Atlanta institution remains the same: the hospitality shown to everyone who enters its doors. For a place that’s been around as long as Tongue & Groove, it’s no surprise that Krohngold and Strumlauf have watched people get married, change jobs, move, have kids and still come back to the club — albeit now with a need to get back home by 11 p.m. to pay the babysitter. At the end of the day, it’s the instant positive reinforcement that they receive from seeing their guests smiling, dancing and having a good time that will keep these Atlanta entrepreneurs going strong for another 20 years. Join in on celebrating Tongue & Groove’s birthday soirée tonight, Thursday, November 13th, and pay tribute to the legacy of this iconic club and its founders. RSVP at tngturns20.com.