The Bizarre Location Of The Original LongHorn Steakhouse

George McKerrow, the founder of the LongHorn Steakhouse chain, didn't start out as a successful business owner. As a teenager, he worked a series of food service jobs, doing everything from bartending to working the griddle at a Cleveland pancake house. According to Reference for Business, in 1973, at just 22 years old, he decided to venture out on his own, purchasing a supper club in West Virginia. He sold the club just one year later, but he didn't abandon his dreams of owning his own restaurant one day. By the early 1980s, he and a partner had put together $100,000 to invest in a steakhouse with a "traditional Texas roadhouse" vibe.

In August of 1981, McKerrow opened the very first LongHorn Steaks Restaurant & Saloon on Peachtree Road in Atlanta. It wasn't replacing another restaurant though, in fact he was building his new eatery atop of what was formerly an X-rated store, per Reference for Business. McKerrow promptly set to work transforming the former adult bookstore into a casual, family-friendly steakhouse, often doing many of the building renovations himself.

A freak snowstorm saved the original LongHorn from shutting down

"It was a tumultuous time for that type of entrepreneurship. I had quit my previous job, fronted a lot of my own money, had a young daughter, and I was spending my days building that restaurant, literally, with my own two hands. Our main investor dropped out, and I was thinking, 'Oh, no... what now?'" McKerrow told The Atlantan in 2018.

He turned to his father to help come up with enough funds to keep the restaurant alive. Together, they, along with a third investor, worked day and night to keep LongHorn afloat. McKerrow recalled serving as "cook, waiter, busboy, and bartend" and everything in between during the restaurant's early days, via Reference for Business. 

However, it seemed that, despite their best efforts, the restaurant was headed for failure — until fate stepped in. One January night in 1982, a freak blizzard took Atlanta by storm, and stranded drivers abandoned their cars and took shelter in the LongHorn Steakhouse on Peachtree Road. They even launched a special promotion offering one dollar drinks for the duration of the snowstorm, and people loved it. After the storm passed, the company wrote that happy customers spread the word of the new restaurant, and the steakhouse took off.