Jumaane Torrence knows the importance of innovating and then sticking to your guns. Thats what hes done with his entertainment venue/nightclub Tempo, which celebrates its six year anniversary this Friday, July 22 with a show by Rudy Currence and Ida Divine.
I think the main thing we can attribute our success to is having a vision beyond the norm, Torrence explains. A lot of venues, promoters and establishments kind of piggyback what others are trying to do instead of carving a niche for themselves in the market. My goal here was to just study the market and see what was missing and try to fill a void, and in doing that create your own culture and carve a niche.
Tempos niche is based on their focus to bring in a variety of top performers and artists, instead of just opening the doors and offering drinks and a dance floor.
The club, which is 25 and up, is strict when it comes to the age requirement and their dress code, which prohibits such pieces of apparel as ball caps, jerseys and T-shirts. Torrence points out that its important for patrons to know that everyone is held to the same expectations.
Tempos success hasnt been lost on the competition, which at times has tried to copy their formula.
Thats been our challenge since the day we opened, and thats why we always try to stay ahead of the pack. There are a lot of venues that have piggybacked our concept, and most of them have failed, Torrence says. A lot of venues have opened up saying theyre going to be 25 and up, with dress requirements, and then after the first couple of months they pretty much drop all their standards and pretty much let anyone in just for an extra dollar.
While Tempos success is due in part to staying true to their original concept, Torrence still realizes how important it is to not become stale.
We dont want to change our target audience, but instead, to keep them coming back by providing new and fresh ideas for them.
It took a minute to register.
In fact, it didnt hit me until my friend stopped to ask, Did that guy just call me a freak? Indeed, he had.
To be exact, as he passed us hed said, All these freaks around, like this kid.
We were in Uptown for the second Buskapalooza, an organized busking event put together by April Denée to raise awareness about her upcoming documentary Busk! Wed been on the street less than five minutes.
The man was with his wife. They both looked to be in their mid forties. She didnt say anything, or at least refrained until we were out of earshot.
My friend, who fronts a local punk band, has blue hair, which was enough to qualify him as a freak in this mans opinion.
Now, I know this is merely an isolated anecdote and that a middle aged guy walking around Uptown thinking anyone who looks vaguely different is inherently a freak isnt the most shocking of realizations. Yet, I cant help but feel that its more emblematic than Id like to believe.
Ive always been more of a people listener, so to speak, than a people watcher. This is especially true when it comes to going out at night. Most crowds look the same to me. A bunch of people standing around, drinking, talking, some dancing its a scene Ive seen plenty of times before and it always looks about the same to me.
Im much more interested in hearing the random drunken statements yelled out throughout the evening, as the concerns for volume control and social decorum dissipate as the drinks start to flow. Thats when a persons true personality comes through, and when you experience something unique.
To honor this nightlife phenomenon, I have decided to start a regular feature Im calling Heard. Each month I will share the most noteworthy statements I have overheard while hanging out in Charlotte once the sun has gone down.
Some will be insightful. Most will probably be ridiculous. But then, thats ultimately up to you, Charlotte. Im just here to write it all down.
Bartender at The Gin Mill: They come in here the next day like, You roofied me! Yeah, or maybe it was the 18 shots you ordered.
Partygoer #1: I wonder what the most repeated word is in that crowd right now. Partygoer #2: Like.
Girl at The Milestone: I dont believe in God, I believe in aliens. People saw aliens and they thought it was God.
Guy at Sewercide Mansion: If I was a rapper, Id rap like Lewis Carroll.
A white picket fence in need of a paint job runs a ragged border along a lawn populated by 20-somethings clutching cans of cheap beer. Female-fronted punk comes screaming out of the basements large, propped doors. This is Sewercide Mansion.
The Queen City house show venue (329 Woodvale Place) has only been in existence for about six months but is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best underground spots to see both live and touring bands.
When I arrived for the latest of these shows, I was met by my friend Sydney Nieboer, who admonished me for once again missing her set so far they have been primarily an opening act and I am late for everything. Nieboer fronts the local band Syd and The Lipshits and started Sewercide with Elijah von Cramon when they were both living at the house. Von Cramon, who fronts another local punk band, Paint Fumes, still lives at Sewercide and handles all the booking.
In addition to maintaining my reputation for being a flake by missing Syd and The Lipshits, I had also missed Nü Sensae, whose set had people talking. The two member band had apparently put on quite the show.
Luckily, I go to Sewercide as much for the people as the music. Forget people-watching, Sewercide is where you go to meet people. Not every show is a punk show, but they all have that same community vibe where most people would rather come up and introduce themselves than critique you from afar.
With the warmer months fully upon us, outdoor drinking is in full swing across the city. Porches, patios and backyards are once again key in late night and weekend revelry. But now theres another option, as not one but two beer gardens have opened in Charlotte this spring.
I stopped by both one night to see what they had to offer and how they compared to one another.
The first stop was The Biergarten at Pavilion at EpiCentre. The Biergarten is most notable for its rooftop location, offering a decent view of the city. The bar itself is situated in the center of the patio and is closed off by large glass partitions that open up like garage doors, offering the traditional open air beer garden experience.
Those patrons who dont wish to belly up to the bar can enjoy a game of ping-pong or cornhole, or have a seat at one of the many picnic tables another beer garden staple. A large tent offers protection from the elements for nights when the weather decides not to cooperate.
The Biergarten is also the new home for Alive After Five, so theres also an impressive stage set up on the patio to house the bands and performers for that weekly Uptown after-work event.
Unfortunately, the beer selection leaves something to be desired. Its almost as if they thought of everything you need to make a good beer garden except the most crucial ingredient: lots of good beer. Instead you get about a half dozen imports and a half dozen domestics on tap, none of which are particularly difficult to find at your average bar or club.
The overall atmosphere makes The Biergarten worth checking out, though, and its a nice change of pace from the average EpiCentre spot. But hard-core beer lovers may want to look elsewhere.
One place they may want to look is at VBGB, the other newly opened beer garden at the NC Music Factory. They offer a much wider variety, with dozens of craft beers, each poured into a mug, stein or glass appropriate to the beverage and set down before you on a frost rail to keep it cold.
The shots were less impressive. They were a bit on the small side and seemed haphazardly made. Bar food is also available, although the kitchen was closed by the time I got there.
While VBGB got the beer part down, the garden part seemed to be missing. They have a large patio, but its sectioned off from the inside, which looks like a standard bar. They do have large metal sliding doors but they were kept closed, unlike at The Biergarten.
The patio features picnic tables, cornhole and a projector utilizing the side of the building as its screen. What will surely catch your eye first, however, is the famous JFG Coffee sign, which now sits proudly atop the VBGB roof. Its a bit strange to see a coffee sign on a beer gardens roof, but it does offer this new establishment a tie into a piece of Charlotte history. It also makes VBGB hard to miss.
While neither The Biergarten nor VBGB is doing everything right, they are both just starting out and theres still a chance for them to work the kinks out.
If nothing else, they have provided a couple of new options for the beer-loving Charlottean to indulge their taste buds in the open air. Perhaps as time goes by, they will push one another to greater heights.
All too often, wine gets overlooked as a choice beverage when indulging in some nighttime fun. While the cranberry vodkas, jager bombs and Long Island Iced Teas are always stellar options when out and about in search of some intoxicated fun, a glass of wine doesn't necessarily have to be reserved for a romantic, refined dinner for two.
In fact, last night, a friend and I had a glass (or actually, four) at Dolce Vita in NoDa, and by the end of the night, we were just as silly as we would have been had we been taking shots next door at Sin City. (What? I'm a light-weight. Don't laugh!) Side note: Tonight is half-priced wine night at Dolce.
Anyway, my point is, don't think you have to go to the hard stuff when you're out enjoying a night on the town. A few glasses of white will do just the trick and it's a whole lot smoother.
Perhaps in an effort to remind folks that wine is divine (and just as intoxicating), MyUptownFun.com and Silver Fox Limos has taken to hosting wine crawls. In fact, their next one, going down tomorrow night, is sold out.
But that doesn't mean you can't join them the next go-round. Mark it down on your calendar: June 30. And you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
The now irrelevant Montell Jordan once sang, "It's Friday night and I feel alright ..."
As such, it's a great night to take your man or woman out on a date. Crave Dessert Bar offers a date-night special tonight to add some sweetness to your evening: 15 percent off your delectables with proof of purchase from a show, play or a movie tonight.
If only I could find someone to take me out tonight ...
Oh, and super bonus! Crave now offers patio seating. (Photo courtesy of their Facebook page.)
If I had my way, Mondays would be outlawed. But what better way to kick off the workweek than with good times and good drinks?
Mondays are Monday FunDay at Dixie's Tavern, an oldie but goodie in Charlotte's nightlife industry. Next week, when you're sluggishly working to get through the day, reward yourself by hitting up Dixie's that night. These folks were out this past week and they look they're having a good time, don't you think?
Charlotte has amplified its nightlife scene once again with Prohibition Bar (formerly known as The Attic), an establishment that, in my opinion, is going to play a major role in evolving nightlifes backdrop altogether.
Im constantly on the club scene, and for a while Ive been contemplating becoming more of a bar guru. Already convinced I was going to love this place because of its balcony that features a walk-up and order window, I met Joel Wisdo, my new favorite bartender, who mixed me up what he calls a can of whoop ass. Big surprise, a few cans of whoop ass later, I was totally captivated.
The atmosphere is fitting and includes dim lighting, candles lining the bar, wooden kegs, and did I mention draft tables? Prohibition Bar is one of a few places in Charlotte to offer tap tables, and Moonshine, two perks that Im sure future table tenders will appreciate. The building's largest wall is characterized by projections of quotes from notable people such as comedian W.C. Fields, that encompass Prohibition in American history. My favorite, by Al Capone, reads, Prohibition has made nothing but trouble. That's a quote I feel perfectly sums up the bar's future impact on Uptown.
Jason Astephen, general manager, was more than enthusiastic about what Prohibition plans to offer:This place is going to be a fun alternative to the nightclub scene, and no one is going to be turned away.
At 10 p.m. on the weekends, they plan to clear the dance floor and bring in a DJ, giving the bar that nightclub twist. Astephen mentioned providing personal name engraved mugs to club members that will hold 20 ounces of beer and include no cover charge. He also plans to offer Beer Nerd Classes, for all you beer nerds intoxicated with questions about your ale.
In the words of Wisdo, Prohibition is the perfect place to let your hair down and get wasted, and I couldnt agree more. The bar has been slammed packed since their soft opening. They cater to a very diverse crowd and are exhibiting elements that city has never seen before. Prohibition Bar has planned its grand opening for March 11. For now, patrons are encouraged to check out their Facebook and look out for their website that should be up and running within the next week. Open Mon.-Sat 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Sun. 9 p.m.-2 a.m.