Tuesday, April 7, 2015

No strangers in nightlife

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2015 at 5:26 PM

Last Wednesday, I ran into a neighbor I’d recently met at my apartment complex. We chatted about the American Dream, you know, working a 9 to 5, and then he mentioned going to grab a drink with a friend at The Gin Mill and invited me along.

This was the first time I had gone out with someone I barely knew. Within the first two minutes in the Uber, I knew this guy was a riot. His name was Brian Miller, a self-proclaimed local playboy and sunglass enthusiast — have you ever heard of the monthly sunglass subscription called Stunner of the Month? Me neither.

The Gin Mill is located in South End next to Amos’. I could tell right away from the interior — which included exposed brick and older furniture — that this place had been a part of this area for a while. I ordered a Miller Lite — a feeble attempt to maintain some sense of sobriety on this worknight.

One of the bartenders, Steve, said he’s been coming to The Gin Mill since it got its start 15 years ago. He told me, as an eligible bachelor, the Mill was a fun place to hang out and have a few beers.

I noticed Brian by the shuffleboard table, so I grabbed a Red Bull/Vodka and headed over to learn how to play. Afterward, we checked out the rooftop patio and discovered one of the best views of the city. There, we teetered between a game of Galaga or darts, and then: “Wanna go somewhere else? Let’s really make this an epic night.” My excuses of having to go to work early the next day were ignored, and we headed down Park Road to Jeff’s Bucket Shop.

Situated between Maverick Rock Taco and Brazwell’s Premium Pub, a neon blue sign with a hand gesturing downward points you in the direction of this karaoke bar. Why, you ask? You must go downstairs into an alleyway to enter. Before going in, Brian and I decided on singing “A Whole New World” from Disney’s Aladdin. Oh. My. Gosh. What had I just signed up for?

I could see why my friends said this small place could get pretty wild late at night. The centerpiece was a stage lit up by the glowing “Jeff’s Bucket Shop,” blue string lights and a hanging disco ball. As I watched a patron singing her heart out, I thought, “This setup will literally make you think you could give Whitney Houston a run for her money.”

After a few more drinks, I was anxious to sing one of the best Disney songs ever. Brian and I stepped on stage. As a newcomer, I didn’t know that in a duet, the blue words on the screen instruct the guy to sing while the pink words are for the woman. My grand entrance, which was of course early, was stifled by my partner, who was so invested in the performance that he pulled down my mic and signaled that it was his turn without missing a note. This didn’t affect my confidence (maybe it was the alcohol?) and the rest of the performance went on without a hitch. At least, I think.

“There is no bar like this in Charlotte,” someone working the bar told me afterward. And he was right. The combination of the dimly lit atmosphere, grungy minimalistic feel and greatly reduced inhibitions in bar-goers culminates in a karaoke dive bar unlike any other in the Queen City.

At 4 a.m., I laid in bed dreading the next two full work days. I couldn’t believe that once again I had gotten so drunk on a workday, and with someone I’d practically just met! But Playboy Brian was completely right — this hump day was epic. While the nausea settled in, I realized Jeff’s Bucket Shop, was, in fact, “A whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew.”

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