Thursday, August 21, 2008

Enlightened nightlife?

The Lynx Blue Line continues to add businesses along the light rail corridor, and with it, more nightlife options outside of uptown.

One of the first will be Dharma Lounge -- part of the Silos at Southend, a residential complex at South Boulevard and Remount Road. I met with co-owner Eric Pliner last week to get the scoop.

Pliner, a yogi, told me that dharma in Sanskrit means "to define one's purpose. to find what you do well and use that to help other people."

Pliner said he and partner Lora Campbell came up with the name by combining their areas of expertise: Pliner held partnerships in Forum and Tonic, and Campbell has a background in style and music.

The 3,000-square-foot space is tentatively set to open this fall. It's designed with an Eastern influence and the decor revolves around such organic materials as bamboo. But Pliner assures me that it's not a place to take yourself too seriously -- their logo does include a headphone-wearing Buddha after all.

He says there will be "no segregation. No VIP sections, lines" etc.

Instead it will be the kind of place where Pliner teaches free yoga on the weekends. A place that showcases the works of local artists and gives back to the community. And, of course a place where they clear out the tables to make room for the dance floor.

More exciting venues are planned for the Silos subdistrict, including Pliner's Local, a bar with a neighborhood-pub feel. I'll have more details on that and other Silos concepts in the coming weeks.

To sign up for a free membership and tickets to Dharma's grand opening party, click here.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday night party on hold

Pop Life has been put on hiatus as promoters Michael Kitchen and Carlton Hargro search for a new venue for the popular Wednesday night party.

The guys decided to move the party from Loft 1523 where it has been held since April.

Kitchen and Loft owner Adam Whalen declined to comment on the decision to cut ties.

In an e-mail message, Kitchen wrote: "Pop Life and INFUSION (an occasional Friday night party) will no longer be held at Loft 1523. Although I'm really hurt by this unfortunate turn of events, I promise you that we will be back soon at a new location that has yet to be named -- bigger and better than ever."

He went on to thank the staff at Loft for their service.

Kitchen says he'll be looking at potential venues in the next month in hopes of getting the party going again by mid-September.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New EpiCentre nightspot

BlackFinn American Saloon, the newest EpiCentre venue, quietly opened last weekend.

I stopped in to check it out last night during the Young Affiliates of the Mint happy hour.

First impression: It's the uptown (upscale) sports bar Charlotte has long needed. It's big, open with plenty of seating in the two-level space and has more than 30 TVs.

Fox & Hound (the uptown location) and Picasso's should be worried come football season.

Fox & Hound's problem: it's dark and dreary with limited seating, despite its ideal TV setup.

Picasso's downfall: If you don't get a spot in one of the easy chairs in front of the wall of TVs, you're craning your neck to see any other TV in the bar.

BlackFinn solves all of these problems.

But aside from the sports bar aspect, BlackFinn's managers are aiming to make it a destination for business meetings for the older crowd.

"Business people are going to like our decor with its mahogany accents that make our dining room an ideal place to discuss a deal, either in the middle of the day or in the evening," manager Gregg McConnell said in a statement Wednesday.

Indeed, five different organizations were holding various happy hours last night.

BlackFinn has locations in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas and Cincinnati.

If you go, order a pint of Guinness. It's the bar's signature drink.

Not sure if the restaurant will get the over 35 crowd they're aiming for -- Suite and Whisky River attract a younger demographic and I expect that the same crowd will migrate over to BlackFinn.

The bar-restaurant will hold its official two-day grand opening party Aug. 22-23. Get your free grand opening tickets here.

Look for a full review of BlackFinn in next Friday's CLT.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monday night monopoly

Monday night's a tough night in the service industry.

People are just recovering from raucous weekend parties and are getting back on track for their work week. The last thing on their minds is bellying up to the bar again.

So the question in the nightlife scene has always been: How to get people out at the start of the week?

Some places have tried Wii bowling, various SIN promotions, rock bingo, the list goes on -- some don't even bother opening their doors until the middle of the week.

But so far, only one Charlotte nightspot has been able to consistently pull in a good crowd -- Dixie's has the monopoly on Monday nights.

I stopped in last night to listen to some karaoke (surprisingly not that painful, except for one young woman's rendition of Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know." Ladies, that's something that we sing at the top of our lungs in the privacy of our bedrooms or cars, not in public), watch the beer pong games and try some Catdaddy Moonshine.

Also pulling in a decent crowd Mondays: The Evening Muse's open mic night. More than 20 performers (plus their supporters) ranging from the late teens to 40-somethings turned out last night for their 10 minutes in the spotlight.

Do you guys have favorite Monday night haunts?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sexy? I'll be the judge of that

If you've ever thrown a party, you know it's difficult to be the host(ess) with the most(est).

But try getting the party started for an arena full of people. That's what the Lady Cats do at Time Warner Cable Arena every week -- and it's no easy task when your partygoers are more concerned with socializing or grabbing a drink at the Back Court for the first three quarters than paying attention to the game itself.

So on Sunday, I joined a group of 15 other judges to pick who we thought had the most potential to keep their partygoers' heads turned toward the court at the first round of Lady Cats auditions.

About 130 girls and one guy (maybe he didn't get the Lady part of the memo) turned out to learn complicated routines taught in 15 minutes by Charlotte's choreographer extraordinaire Brandii McCoy, who encouraged the girls (and guy) to be "sassy but classy" and "keep it PG-13."

There was lots of hair tossing, booty shaking and chest pumping that turned the faces of the male judges red. (They were: WSOC's Bill Voth and Tim Caputo, WCNC's Ira Cronin, Fox Charlotte's Jon Wilson and WFNZ goofball T-Bone, who held up a sign to certain girls reading "I'm single.")

See photos here and video here.

At the end of the four-hour auditon, the group was narrowed down to 30 girls who will go on to participate in a three-day boot camp this week before being whittled down to the final team on Thursday night.

Good luck, ladies.

Friday, August 8, 2008

New restaurant opens in Southend

I stopped by the new 1300 Southend Tavern last night.

It opened Sunday in the old Original Pancake House location on South Boulevard.

There weren't a whole lot of people there when I stopped in for dinner, but I don't think people realize it's open.

The restaurant bears no remnants of OPH. Sleek dark hardwood floors, track lighting and exposed ceilings accent the open, airy space. A TouchTunes jukebox sits along one wall, but no one was taking advantage of it last night -- instead we listened to soft rock played at such a low volume you could easily eavesdrop on the conversations at nearby tables. (I like somewhere in the middle -- not blasting so you have to shout, but loud enough that I can talk freely above a whisper.)

It has the potential to be a good sports bar -- eight large flat-screen TVs are well-placed throughout the restaurant, there's plenty of seating from the regular tables and high tops to the stools around the large bar.

The food is standard bar fare with a Southern-heavy theme -- think fried green tomatoes, spicy pimento dip, ribs, corndogs, and shrimp and grits -- plus the usual burgers, fries and pasta dishes.

I'll be interested to see what the crowd is like in a month or two, and on a Friday or Saturday. Not sure if they'll be successful in that location -- the parking situation is less than ideal and they have the competition of the wildly popular Nikko just a building away, but it could draw a crowd looking for a more casual option in the area.