Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Uptown bar changing locations

Things are heating up over at the old Daddy’s location in the Ivey’s building at the corner of Fifth and Church streets.

Buzz around town is that Coyote Ugly – currently in the boonies of North College Street – is looking to change locations and has already applied for a liquor license and signed a lease at Ivey’s.

The Friends of Fourth Ward neighborhood association isn’t too happy about the possible new tenant.

"This particular bar’s intent is more akin to a pure drinking establishment than a restaurant or cocktail lounge," said FoFW president Jay Biles. "There is open encouragement to drink to excess."

Biles cites that atmosphere as a concern for noise and increased crime to nearby residents.

Charlotte Center City Partners backed Biles’ concerns in a letter released Tuesday.

"We emphatically agree that this is the wrong location for this business type. The potentially loud and boisterous interior and exterior noise generated by a bar of this type would greatly disturb residents," the letter said.

Biles said he would prefer to see Coyote Ugly stay in the College Street entertainment district.

Ivey’s manager Stefan Latorre responded to the concerns in an e-mailed statement tonight:

"Coyote Ugly ... is a reputable national company that is willing to improve the space and operate a restaurant and bar. The tenant has a signed lease agreement with our company, so we are legally bound to lease this space to them. Nevertheless, we believe they will be good neighbors and they are obligated under the terms of the lease to abide by all laws and not create a nuisance. The tenant has an excellent record in 15 sites throughout the country, and we expect them operate a good business here as well."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Off to the races

I've lived in Charlotte for more than three years now and had never attended one of the premiere social events of the season -- the Queen's Cup Steeplechase.

That all changed Saturday as I put on my prettiest sun dress and big (borrowed) hat and ventured down to Mineral Springs.

My mission: check out the spreads at as many tents as I could crash (and watch a few horse races).

Truth be told, I was exhausted after hitting five. That track is huge!

Here are the highlights:

Overheard on Member's Hill
: A woman, waving what I presumed to be a betting slip (is that legal?) and calling out, "Oh, bookie..."

Most laid-back tent
: TruGreen ChemLawn. It was a bring-your-own-cooler and build-your-own-sandwich kind of crowd who had clearly been drinking whatever was in said coolers since 10 a.m. Runner-up goes to the kid-friendly tent at Hart & Hickman Environmental Consultants which supplied buckets of Bojangles to its guests.

Best spread
: Chef Cory Haigler's at the Westin tent. Crab claws, jumbo shrimp, gazpacho shots, smoked salmon and beef tenderloin. Added bonuses: top-shelf liquor and a chocolate mousse bar. Needless to say, this is where I spent the majority of my afternoon.

: Miss Weddington, wearing her sash and crown on Member's Hill.

Best centerpiece
s: Any of the tents on Member's Hill. Brightly colored tablecloths in lime green, yellow and pink were accented with gorgeous bouquets of spring flowers.

Check out more of Jason Miczek's photos from the day here.

Children's Theatre: Adults only, please

The Children's Theatre at ImaginOn held its first adults-only party Saturday so the children of the '70s could reminisce about their favorite Saturday morning cartoon, "Schoolhouse Rock!"

The night started with beer, wine, pizza and a psychedelic costume contest -- always a lethal combination. Tie-dyed shirts peppered the crowd, as did a few pairs of platform shoes, go-go boots and one big afro.

Ron Chisolm, the director of "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" bravely donned a pair of snug white bell bottoms which he modeled on stage with a little rump shake before the show.

But the contest's awards (a $250 travel voucher on US Airways) went to Nicole, who had the above-mentioned afro, along with a colorful tunic, flared jeans and platform shoes. For the guys, the winner was "Engineer Dave," who dressed in a train conductor's uniform, complete with train whistle.

The show itself was a ton of good old-fashioned, wholesome fun and the crowd was definitely into it, going especially wild for "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here," "Just a Bill" and, of course, "Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?" (I think the alcohol served before the show had something to do with it. One woman in the row behind me fell out of her chair and said, "Alcohol should not be served at things like this.")

The show runs through May 4. Check out Observer theater critic Julie York Coppens' review here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rock of Love in Charlotte

Alley Cat looked like a casting call for "Rock of Love: 3" on Wednesday night.

Women in their 20s, 30s and 40s turned out in skimpy halter tops en masse to get a look at Poison frontman (and VH1 reality star) Bret Michaels, who played a 13-song, hourlong set at the uptown hot spot.

For those who coughed up the price of the $40 ticket, they weren’t disappointed (if they managed to overlook the poor sound quality at Alley Cat). Michaels worked the stage in his signature bandanna-cowboy-hat combo, playing to the adoring crowd and singing most of Poison’s big hits ("Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "Nothin’ But a Good Time" and "Unskinny Bop") plus a few unexpected ones like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door."

After the show, a dozen or so women stood by the backstage entrance, hoping to catch the eye of Michaels’ right-hand man and bodyguard Big John, who was on a serious power trip. And several women did make it backstage for an audience with the ’80s rock star.

Ambre who?

Check out photos here.

Who else went last night? What did you guys think?

For the earlybirds

Bret Michaels rocked the Alley Cat on Wednesday night and I'll be giving the full scoop on the performance to Paul and Sarah on 96.9 The Kat this morning at 8:30. 

Listen live here.

A full blog and photos to come later.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Forgoing bars for books

On Tuesday night, I gladly accepted the invitation to a book-release party thrown by a fellow media man.

Rob Boisvert, the morning anchor on News 14, has published his first book, Long Dead Lover.

"I've always loved fiction," he told me. "Publishing a book is the fulfillment of a longtime dream. Hopefully, this book will be the first of many."

His release party at the intimate Hidell Brooks Gallery in South End brought together members of the Charlotte media and friends of Rob, who played gracious host throughout the evening, signing every book jacket presented to him with a personalized note.

It was no easy task since many of the women in attendance were no doubt the inspiration behind some of the short love stories in Rob's book. Luckily, the women steered clear of each other and no catfights ensued.

He'll be signing copies of the book Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Bordors at Morrocroft and Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Borders at Stonecrest.

Best view in the city?

Do you have a favorite spot to spend your spring high above the city? We want to know.

E-mail me your vote (or post it below) for the best rooftop patios outside of the center city.
We're strictly looking for rooftops, not balconies or sidewalk tables.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Acoustically challenged?

I had an e-mail from a reader over the weekend complaining about the sound system at Time Warner Cable Arena (formerly Charlotte Bobcats Arena) during the Carrie Underwood/Keith Urban show Friday night.

She said it was so loud and the music was so distorted that she left after Urban's second song and said she'll never attend another concert there.

I went to the show as well (read my review here), but from my seat in the lower section, I really enjoyed it and didn't think too much about the sound other than that it was loud -- but hey, it's a concert.

What did you guys think? Was the sound that bad up in the upper bowl? Have you been to other concerts there and left with similar feelings?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dressing for happy hour

I left the newsroom Thursday evening, looking forward to enjoying the spring weather with a beer at Alive After Five.

As my friend and I were walking up Tryon Street, we spotted what looked to be a streetwalker -- a young woman in a super short, hot pink dress with sky-high strappy stilettos. Turns out she wasn't a streetwalker, but a fellow Alive After Five patron.

Got me thinking about fashion do's and don'ts for the popular summer series.
  • Don't wear your cocktail attire. Save those little black dresses (or pink, as the case may be) for the weekend. It's an after-work social, not a Saturday night at the club.
  • Don't wear anything you wouldn't want your boss to see you in. Think about how many times you run into co-workers in that tiny plaza. You want to be able to go into the office the next morning without a hangover and with your reputation intact.
  • Do take a cue from the guys. They all look casually comfortable with their shirt sleeves rolled up and ties loosened. Ladies, wear a dress or camisole that you can cover up with a cardigan or jacket during the day before revealing (tastefully -- see the boss rule above) a little more skin.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is VIP all that?

Over the past three months in my party role, I’ve been able to sample many of Charlotte’s VIP areas.

Let’s call it one of the many perks of the job – or is it?

Have you ever noticed how it always looks like the people in VIP are looking enviously at the dance floor? It almost looks as though they are the ones who want to get into the main area of the club, not vice versa.

More often than not, VIP sections are crowded areas filled with people who are a little too concerned with whether other people are looking at them. Or it’s full of girls who have had one too many shots of Patron after being pulled up from the dance floor by high-rollers. (Hey, we’ve all been there – right, ladies?)

And then there are the charming additions of VIP areas within the VIP areas with pushy bouncers telling you to get on the other side of the rope in an already cramped room. (Really, Mr. Man in Black Shirt? Because I was already claustrophobic.)

Any time I find myself in VIP, I’m thinking about how quickly I can get back out among the "regular folk."

After all, there’s nothing like being in the center of the dance floor, arms raised, the music pulsing and the entire room jumping to the beat.

You just can’t find that in VIP.

Monday, April 14, 2008

My favorite bartender

The verdict's still out, but I'm about to weigh in next Monday at BAAR Wars -- Bars Against AIDS Respond.

The event benefits AIDS Walk Charlotte and will bring together the city's best bartenders -- with your help.

For $1 a ballot at participating locations (including Alley Cat, Forum, Cosmos, Brixx Pizza uptown and Petra's Piano Bar), you can cast your vote until Sunday for the best overall bartender, hottest male/female bartender, funniest bartender, fastest bartender and the bar with the best staff.

Ballot winners will be announced at Alley Cat next Monday at the final event, which is where my professional tastebuds come in. I'll be judging the tastiest cocktail competition along with NASCAR hottie Denny Hamlin, Fox News Edge's faux-hawked Brotha' Fred and Creative Loafing cutie Brittney Cason. We'll be determining the best martini, best shot, best vodka cocktail and best Red Bull cocktail. Then the bartenders will defy gravity in the flair competition.

It all starts at 9 p.m.

Don't see your favorite bar on the list? Tell them to e-mail for more information.

Spotlight on a local bartender...

Tommy Noblett is the type of bartender you rarely find anymore. He stops fights before they start, has your usual drink ready for you before you even belly up to the bar and manages to juggle everything by himself behind the bar. He attributes his impressive drink memory to the fact that 80 percent of his customers are regulars. You can find Tommy at the Comet Grill in Dilworth. He'll have your beer waiting for you when you get there.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring has sprung

The weather was perfect Wednesday for M5's grand opening of its patio for the season.

Men and women in their 30s and 40s dressed in their designer duds and big jewelry (it is SouthPark, let's not forget) crowded the rattan couches and the bars both inside and out while a DJ spun house music.
In short, it was the rich man's Alive After Five (which starts today!). No wrist bands, plastic bottles or beer-splattered tables here.
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the biggest nights for the patio in the summer, according to one server who worked last season, and the parties usually continue until about 10:30.
One suggestion: more bartenders! One woman told my friend and me as we approached the bar: "Good luck, ladies." It doesn't matter how crowded a place is, you shouldn't have to stand right up against the bar and wait 10 minutes to get served.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More on Junior's bar

On Tuesday, e-mails and text messages made the rounds as people in the nightlife industry bubbled with the news: Junior will see the finished Whisky River for the first time tonight!

That word-of-mouth news helped fill the EpiCentre hot spot up on a usually quiet Tuesday night.

(A lot of the people I saw I recognized from the service industry. Sizing up the new competition, perhaps?)

Junior stayed hidden in his VIP booth with friends (including a gaggle of table-dancing girls) the entire night and closed the place down.

Also spotted at a reserved table near the main bar: Panthers linebacker Jon Beason with a couple of his teammates.

I last saw Whisky River in February when I had to wear a hard hat to get in the building. The finished product is a perfect melding of country and rock ‘n’ roll – from the cowhide-backed bar stools and a belt-buckle-trimmed bar to the giant lava lamps hanging from the black exposed ceilings and Bon Jovi coming from the speakers. Also sneaking into the playlist: Journey, Michael Jackson, Flo Rida, Nelly and Kenny Chesney. How's that for a mix of music?

I wouldn’t say WR is an entirely original concept. It felt like a cross between Dixie’s Tavern and Cans Bar. But Charlotte will respond well to it since it’s new and hot right now.

Indeed, the response has been so positive so far that the bar is hosting two grand-opening parties April 18 and 19. To get on the list, go to

Monday, April 7, 2008

Whisky River opens

Whisky River, Dale Jr.'s new concept in the EpiCentre uptown, had its soft opening over the weekend.

Bar Management Group's Bob Durkin said they pulled in a great crowd Saturday, but the weekend was really all about working out the kinks.

Expect to see the bar start to heavily advertise its official opening next week with a week of parties planned. 

The bar's pre-grand-opening VIP party will be held April 17. The grand opening will be April 18 and the bar will also host the Keith Urban/Carrie Underwood after party.

Did anyone stop in over the weekend? What did you think?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A tale of two cities

This weekend I experienced all that Charlotte has to offer.

My Friday night started out uptown at Grand Central for a ladies-only party (Beauty and the Beat, hosted by Jacinda from the A.M. Mayhem on 96.1 The Beat) that included Top 40 hits, hair stylists, a masseuse, jewelry, makeup and one very popular table featuring a multitude of ... ahem ... sex toys.

It was the first time the bar and 96.1 have done the ladies-only party, but Jacinda tells me she hopes to keep it up. Mark your calendars ladies; in two weeks, the Chippendales will perform. (Am I the only one who immediately thinks of Chris Farley's SNL skit whenever I hear the word Chippendales? Best SNL skit ever.)

From uptown, I headed over to Puckett's Farm Equipment in Derita where I entered a time warp. Johnny Cash was playing (it was the Cash Bash 5, after all) and greasers with their hair slicked back and sideburns grown long dominated the crowd in their cuffed jeans and Chuck Taylors.

(Some background on Puckett's: It was originally a farm equipment store, but when the city of Charlotte started to grow, owner Ralph Puckett realized farmers were buying more beer than tractors as they came in to drown their sorrows over their dwindling land. Now, Ralph's grandson Gary is the owner and bartender and it's one of the best places for live music in the region.)

Despite the storms in the area Friday night, I had to circle the place about five times to find a parking spot. Once inside, it was jam packed as Jem Crossland and the Hypertonics took the stage playing everything from Johnny Cash (of course) to Elvis to Neil Diamond.

Also performing were the Truckstop Preachers whose lead singer bears an uncanny resemblance to Will Ferrell doing his imitation of President Bush.

And I was told by about five different people that I couldn't leave without hearing the closing act, rockabilly band the Belmont Playboys. Though they didn't take the stage until after 1, the crowd was still rocking.

Thanks, Lynn, for getting me out of my bubble and introducing me to this hidden (at least to me) gem.

Any Puckett's regulars out there? What's the best night to go?

Friday, April 4, 2008

For the over 40 crowd

A reader called me Thursday explaining that she and her friend are recently divorced and have been out of the nightlife scene for 20 years. She was looking for places to go after work on Fridays where the over 40 crowd hangs out. Here's what I told her:

  • Blue Restaurant uptown. Great food, great service and live jazz most nights.
  • Sir Edmond Halley's in Park Road Shopping Center. For a neighborhood vibe.
  • Sullivan's in South End. I went there Thursday for its happy hour (steak for just $5!) and by the time I left, 30- and 40-somethings were streaming into the bar looking for a table. If you go, take the lightrail to avoid the jammed-up parking lot.
  • Mickey and Mooch in the Arboretum. The bar is always hopping.
  • And finally, Villa Antonio's Ballantyne location. The bar area is filled with divorcees dancing to oldies from the live band. It's a wild party.
What did I miss? What advice would you have given her?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Dilworth bar-restaurant closed

The City Tavern on East Boulevard closed March 28.

Plan B, a new restaurant-bar concept is tentatively scheduled to open in May.

No word on why the decision was made to shut down the Dilworth location, but it comes less than a year after its Lake Norman branch closed for a new concept.

City Tavern owner John Weinbrenner couldn’t be reached for comment.

Party with the Bobcats

The Bobcats' 2007-08 season is coming to a close and on Tuesday the guys thanked their season-ticket holders with an end-of-season party.

A live band, air-hockey and foosball tables, pop-a-shot nets and other games lined the concourse at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.

Bob Johnson and many of the players mingled with fans, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

I took the off-the-court opportunity to ask the players where they like to party on their off days.

Jared Dudley said he frequents Forum and Hom. Ditto for Sean May, though he added cryptically that his favorite hangout, "used to be Phil's (Deli)." He also said he likes Loft 1523.

I was momentarily blinded by the dime-sized diamonds in Jason Richardson's ears. I tuned in long enough to hear him say that he hasn't been out too much since coming to Charlotte, but he likes NV Lounge in Cornelius.

Nazr Mohammed and Derek Anderson like to stay in, while the newest Bobcat Earl Boykins is still learning his way around town. Boykins said he hasn't been out to party yet, but he's already got his favorite restaurants: Carrabba's on South Boulevard ("I love Italian food," he explained.) and McCormick and Schmick's uptown.

It was the second year for the end-of-season party and about 1,000 showed up out of the Bobcats' 7,400 season ticketholders.