Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Avett Brothers wow a sellout crowd

The Avett Brothers opened their two-night homecoming show Tuesday at the Belk Theater -- and it was easy to see why the bluegrass band from Concord is making waves in the music industry.

The guys -- Scott Avett on banjo/vocals, brother Seth on acoustic guitar/vocals, Joe Kwon on cello and Bob Crawford on bass -- started with a bang, opening the show with "Left on Laura, Left on Lisa" and quickly built on the sell-out crowd's energy, rarely slowing down for a break in their hour-and-a-half set and playing such favorites as "At the Beach" and "Salina" as well as newer songs such as "Standing With You."

At times, it seemed as though they were throwing their whole bodies into each note while playing multiple instruments at a time. The only people working harder than the band were the backstage crew who worked throughout the show to fix broken banjo strings and a kick drum that felt the full force of Scott Avett's enthusiasm for the music.

The biggest ovation of the night was saved for "Go to Sleep." The audience continued to sing the refrain from the song a full five minutes after the Avetts had left the stage. The guys returned to play a four-song encore consisting of "Colorshow," "The Lowering," "Kick Drum Heart" and "Salvation Song."

The energy from the stage was infectious and had everyone in the crowd -- from children to seniors -- up and out of their seats, dancing in the aisles. It's hard to imagine how raucous the show will be tonight on New Year's Eve.

But it was the Avetts who were most thankful:

"Thanks for having us home," Scott Avett said. "You are old friends and we thank you for coming."

(Tonight's New Year's Eve concert starts at 9. It's also sold out, but you might be able to buy tickets through Craigslist.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Win NYE tickets!

Rich & Bennett's popular NYE bash is already sold out, but you're in luck -- I scored two tickets to give away to one lucky reader.

The party will serve as the grand opening for the new Common House restaurant in Plaza Midwood and features an open bar from 9 p.m.-2 a.m., a full dinner buffet from Hawthorne's Pizza, a champagne toast at midnight and music by DJ Kadence.

Interested? Just call 704-358-5207 by noon today and sing the first verse of "Auld Lang Syne" into my voicemail.

Best version wins the tickets.

Good luck!
For a full list of NYE parties, click here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

NIX owner responds

My last blog about Nix Burger & Brew received a large number of negative comments about the new uptown restaurant that opened just last week.

Owner Nick LaVecchia sent me an e-mail today addressing some of the concerns.

"I am hoping you can help me clarify some of the issues we've experienced during NIX debut. We experienced many delays during construction that were beyond our control. When we finally opened, business volume was way above our projections. We are addressing many issues daily that exist with any new restaurant opening. We are working diligently to fix problems, mostly related to the high volume with very limited space. With any new concept, there are always kinks to be worked out in the first few weeks of operation. I just want you to know we are aware of these issues and are working hard to fix them. We hope we are given the chance to fix problems and not be judged based on the first few days after opening."

In short, have patience, people. We should be rooting for all businesses to succeed right now.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Uptown burger joint opens today

NIX Burger & Brew opens tonight at the corner of Fifth and Tryon streets, offering a rare mid-range option for dining uptown.

NIX, owned by Nick LaVecchia of LaVecchia's Seafood Grille, offers about 20 different eight-ounce burgers from the traditional cheeseburger to ones topped with fried egg or onion rings. Most burgers are $8.95 and you can choose whether you want turkey, beef or bison as your meat.

Drafts, including Shock Top and Kona Fire Rock, are $5, while bottled beer starts at $3.

I checked it out last night during a pre-opening event and found my buffalo cheeseburger to be perfectly cooked and smothered in blue cheese. I also liked that the bun didn't overwhelm the burger and leave me feeling sickly stuffed.

The place has an industrial feel to it with a keg-inspired ceiling treatment, deconstructed chandeliers and bolts used as accent pieces along the wall. There's a small bar and six flatscreens located throughout the cozy 80-seat space.

LaVecchia said NIX will be open for lunch, dinner and late night (food served until about 1:30 a.m.) seven days a week.

Check out photos here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Will Smith visits Observer newsroom

The first sign Will Smith was approaching the Observer: a luxury motorcoach emblazoned with a huge photo of the actor's face, advertising his new movie "Seven Pounds."

Subtle he is not.

Smith is in Charlotte today promoting the film and raising awareness for Second Harvest Food Bank.

He stopped in the Observer newsroom after visiting the Levine Children's Hospital and students at John Taylor Williams Middle School and Northwest School of the Arts.

Wearing a white button-down shirt, v-neck sweater, hooded vest and jeans, Smith breezed through the Observer lobby, smiling ear-to-ear and saying hello to gawking employees.

After a quick elevator ride to our fourth-floor newsroom, Smith stopped to shake hands and greet everyone he passed.

A reporter was able to snag an autograph for his 12-year-old son, a big fan of the actor's.

"Best Hanukkah present ever!" he exclaimed after he walked away.

Smith stopped to give a hug to one copy editor, commenting that her jacket "felt like butter." She's been seen re-enacting the moment ever since he left.

He then sat down with movie critic Lawrence Toppman for a half-hour interview, his trademark booming laugh trickling into the newsroom every so often.

His entourage -- mostly public relations reps and security guys -- mingled with others in the newsroom. One of them pointed to TV/radio reporter Mark Washburn's desk and said, "You know all the '70s movies about reporters? That's what I envision."

On his way out, the actor stopped to pose for a brief photo shoot and signed some more autographs, including an Observer section promoting "I Am Legend." He told the autograph-seeker that his K-9 co-star in the 2007 film was "the best dog ever."

Afterwards, the (straight, male) staffer said, "I never felt like a giggly schoolgirl before, but I did."

In fact, the whole newsroom seemed like a bunch of giggly schoolgirls -- the room was louder today than it was on election night last month.

He said, "Excuse me, love," to one young woman, who then flushed, clutched her heart and exclaimed "He called me love!"

Smith left about 1:45 to head back to his south Charlotte luxury hotel before heading over to Regal Stonecrest tonight, when he'll donate 300 turkeys to Second Harvest.

Click here and here for more Smith coverage.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Carol of the Pipers

It's nice to know that after a year of covering Charlotte's nightlife, I can still be surprised by things I see during my party travails around town.

On Saturday I was celebrating a friend's birthday at the Gin Mill -- a low-key gathering of shuffleboard, cheap beer and music played at a reasonable volume (what a concept).

We were all thinking about heading home for the night when about 10 men wearing kilts and Santa hats and carrying Christmas-light-adorned bagpipes walked in, making a beeline for the bathroom.

I stopped one and asked what they were up to.

Turns out the guys are part of Ceol na Gael, an Irish Pipe Band, which for the past three holiday seasons has been piping its way to center city bars during its annual Carol of the Pipers.

"The guys have had a few beers," band manager (and bass drum player) Frank Keenan told me, waving at the line to the men's room.

The bagpipers -- who had already played at Tyber Creek Pub, Connolly's and Phil's Deli -- stayed long enough to play three Christmas carols for partygoers (who also demanded an encore) before heading on to their next stop, Vinnie's.

As the last member left with candy canes swaying from his bagpipe, I couldn't help but think it was a lovely way to spend the evening.

Hope some of you guys got a chance to see them, too!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nightlife on 'Monday Night'

The energy uptown was palpable yesterday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and ESPN came to Charlotte for "Monday Night Football."

Some of that energy was, of course, generated by the buzz building up to the pivotal game, but did anyone notice how bright the uptown sky was? The buildings were encouraged to keep all of their lights on for the national broadcast as Charlotte enjoyed its moment in the spotlight. (I'd love to see the Bank of America building's overnight electric bill. No wonder we're in an energy crisis.)

Fans started tailgating hours before kickoff at Bank of America Stadium, and for those who couldn't take a half-day from work, their frustrations and excitement were documented hourly on Facebook. (I'd also love to see the productivity rate at Charlotte businesses yesterday. I'm guessing it's about the same as it is during March Madness.)

But while banks, law firms, (newspapers) and other businesses experienced a drop in productivity yesterday, the hospitality sector saw a boon: Charlotte Center City Partners predicted the game generated up to $8 million in extra revenue to area bars, restaurants and hotels.

I stopped in to WFNZ's Dog House before the game to check out early revelers. For those of you new to Charlotte, the Dog House sits in the shadow of the stadium at Mint and Morehead streets. It's open only on game days when the WFNZ on-air team broadcasts from the bar and fans use it as a tailgating/meeting/game-watching spot.

Inside, fans dressed in Panthers garb munched on peanuts and loaded up on beer while listening to the radio show. Out back, a live band played while folks from Sagebrush served up steaming hot BBQ.

It was nice to see everyone just out having a good time and not sitting at home listening to news reports about the flagging economy.

The Dog House opens two hours before every home game (last one's next Sunday when the Panthers host the Broncos) and stays open as late as two hours after the game ends.

Where are your favorite places to tailgate or watch the game?

Monday, December 8, 2008

New Year's Eve 2009

Here's an updated list of parties to ring in the new year. Know of others? Send me an e-mail with all the details. I'll be updating this list throughout the month, so check back weekly.

  • For those of you teetotalers out there, First Night Charlotte is back. For the first time since 1995, the nationally branded New Year's Eve festivities will kick off in the Square (Trade and Tryon streets) at 7 p.m. Dec. 31. Ring in '09 with the Charlotte Dance Festival, SlamCharlotte, Charlotte Blues Society All-Star Band, Sweetbriar Jam bluegrass band, The Fettuccini Brothers juggling comedy group, Gay Men's Chorus of Charlotte and more. Bring a friend, bring the kids (free for those under 12), but don't bring the booze - it's alcohol-free. An FNC button is $10 and gets you into most events. Get it here.

  • Make-A-Wish and the Charlotte City Club are teaming up for the Enchanted Evening Ball -- a gowns-and-coattails-required event. The swanky fete includes hor d'ouevres, live entertainment, a champagne toast, silent art auction and raffle prizes. If you've always wanted to see how Charlotte looks from the city club, this is your chance -- if you can afford the $150 ticket price (or $250 for VIP). Open bar and complimentary parking included. Ticket sales end Dec. 26. Get 'em here.

  • Party promoters Rich and Bennett -- regular staples on the nightlife circuit -- are hosting a New Year's Eve bash at the new Common House in Plaza Midwood. The party will serve as the grand opening for the restaurant and features an open bar from 9 p.m.-2 a.m., a full dinner buffet from Hawthorne's Pizza, a champagne toast at midnight and music by DJ Kadence. The event has sold out the past five years, so get your tickets early. Pricing is $60 for women if you attend a pre-pay event or $65 online; $80/$85 for men. More info on pre-pay events here.
  • Suite hosts New Year's Eve "Extravagance," a night of Absolut Excellence and Lavishness. Starts at 9 p.m. Advance tickets are $30, on sale Dec. 17 at the club. Private suites available to reserve. Champagne toast and cash balloon drop. Music by DJ Nova.
  • Whisky River hosts its first New Year's bash. The night includes heavy hors d'ouevres, continental breakfast buffet, champagne toast and party favors. VIP booth/table packages start at $700. General admission tickets are $25 and available here.

  • Howl in the New Year at the EpiCentre's dueling rock 'n' roll piano bar, Howl at the Moon. The deluxe party package at $60 per person gets you a full catered Italian dinner and a reserved table starting at 6 p.m. Standing-room only tickets are available for $25 after 8 p.m.
  • Dixie's Tavern is hosting a New Year's Mardi Gras bash. Champagne toast and party favors are included. Booths are available to reserve. The upper area of the bar has three booths available for $100 each, which includes tickets for four people. The lower level has five booths available for $150 each, which includes six tickets. Individual tickets are available for $15 each. Click here.
  • Rusty Rudder will celebrate New Year's at the lake. Live music. Starts at 10 p.m. $10 cover.
  • Jokers Dueling Piano Bar in Mooresville. Dinner buffet, champagne toast and party favors. Entertainment by Keith, Matt and Nathan Carter with special guest Maysameth. Drink specials. $35 tickets.
  • Tommy Ray and the Rayguns and Hick'ry Hawkins will play the New Year's Eve Bash at Puckett's Farm. Music starts at 8:30 p.m. $5 cover. More info here.
  • Flying Saucer Draught Emporium's annual bash will feature live music from Jay Mathey and his band and a champagne toast at midnight. Admission is $5 for U.F.O. club members or $10 for nonmembers. Reservations, which include a bottle of champagne and a disposable camera, are available for $40 a booth or $60 for a table. Party starts at 7 p.m. Customers with reservations must arrive by 9 p.m.
  • The Old Courthouse Theatre presents New Year's Eve Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre and Silent Auction at Lowe's Motor Speedway. In addition to trying to solve the murder mystery, the night includes food, wine, champagne, cash bar and silent auction with art, gift baskets, gift certificates and sports memorabilia. Proceeds benefit the Old Courthouse Theatre. Tickets are $75 per person or $150 per couple.
  • Coyote Joe's will be celebrating the new year, country style. Cash giveaways all night. $10 cover includes champagne toast and line-dancing until your boots fall off. Starts at 7 p.m.

  • Alley Cat presents Rockin' New Year's Eve 2009. U-Phonik will perform live along with DJ Tech Support. Complimentary party favors. 18 and up. Tickets are $15 and available here.

  • The Forum's NYE bash will feature three areas of sound: 80s/90s/Rock/Hip-Hop/Electro in the main room with Dirty Thirty & Frenzy; Latin House, Bachata, Reggaeton and more from DJ's Sensation and 3mendo in Pravda Lounge; and Progressive, Electro, and Fidget House and Trance with DJ Kevin Focus on the Roof Garden. $30 tickets available here.
  • BlackFinn pSponsor Parties' 12th Annual New Year's Eve Party at BlackFinn Saloon. Open bar, buffet, champagne toast, party favors and a $10 voucher for a future visit to BlackFinn. Tickets are $80-$99 available here.

  • InnerCircle Events presents a Voyage to Monte Carlo at Ballantyne Resort's Le Chateau de Lodge. Complimentary buffet, theater screen televising a live feed from New York's Times Square, music from DJ Paradime. Starts at 7 p.m. Cocktail attire. $35 tickets available here.

  • The Sunset Club promises you'll party in style at its formal party that celebrates 1920 and 2009. Come dressed in 1920s attire or in your current modern upscale threads. The party starts at 8 p.m. in 1920s style with a live big band. As midnight approaches, the party will transform into 2009 with DJ Rowshay. $125 includes open bar, heavy hors d'ouevres, live music, DJs and a champagne toast. Tickets can only be purchased in advance. None will be sold at the door. Click here for tickets.

  • Charlotte Salsa is hosting a Latin Party at the Crowne Plaza for New Year's Eve. The goal for this event is to provide a place to celebrate ringing in the New Year with a formal Latin party in a friendly, family-oriented and safe environment. Music from live salsa band “The Latin Project” and DJ Psychs. Two dance floors. Live performances from Charlotte Salsa and the Charlotte Tango Society. Cash bar. Projection screen with live feeds from Times Square. Ticket prices (before Dec. 15): $45 per person, $80 per couple. After Dec. 15, tickets go up to $50/$90. On the night of the event, tickets will be available at the door for $55/$100. Teen admission price is $25. Tickets here.
  • Highlighter's Singles Club (4235 W. Tyvola Road) is having a dance party. Music by Colours. Appetizers will be served. $25 in advance, $30 at the door. More info: 704-548-9212.
  • Precious Promotions is hosting a party at the Big Chill. Music by R&B singer Jonathan, aka Super J, and Nashville's Ilyasin. Advance general admission tickets available for $40. VIP tickets are $85 and include light appetizers, champagne fountain, free photo, easily accessible bar and gift giveaways.
  • The Sol Kitchen and Apostrophe Lounge are hosting an intimate gathering for those of you who are tired of overcrowded and expensive NYE bashes. Free food (including a dessert bar) and champagne toast. Tickets are $25 and available at the bar.
  • The Comedy Zone and Embassy Suites (Concord/Speedway) present two NYE shows. The 8 p.m. early dinner/show package includes three top national comedians, a dinner buffet and cocktail service. You'll be home by 10, or you can hit other parties later in the night. The 10:15 p.m. Laff into 2009 show includes three top national comedians, party favors, a champagne toast and breakfast buffet. Tickets $85 or $150 per couple. Click here.
  • NYE at Hom has DJ Wiiz Kid spinning a mash-up of your favorite tunes in Play, while Fred Everything and Johnnie Davis spin in Liv. The club is offering three different packages: general admission for $15; an all-inclusive $35 general admission ticket gets you your choice of appetizer and entree and a champagne toast (seatings at 9:30 or 10:30); the $75 all-inclusive VIP ticket gains you exclusive access to the study with a private bar (open bar until 1 a.m.), appetizer buffet, a champagne toast and a separate door entry so you don't have to wait in line. The VIP ticket is presale only. Tickets available here.
  • Back to the Future Bash at The Breakfast Club -- 1989 meets 2009. Hosted by 107.9 The Link's Bandy from the "Matt & Ramona Show." Advance tickets are $20 before Dec. 30 (available at the club). Day of tickets are $25.
  • NYE at Loft 1523. $75 cover includes penny drinks, champagne toast and party favors. The ticket price jumps up to $90 the week of, but the party is nearly sold out, so act fast.
  • 5th annual NYE celebration at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille. Five bars, buffets upstairs and downstairs, champagine toast at midnight. DJ Method and DJ Scooter will be spinning hits from the '70s, '80s, '90s and today. Tickets are $69. Call 704-377-3808 or e-mail
  • NYE at Buckhead Saloon. Party favors, champagne toast, live music and DJ. Doors open at 8 p.m.
  • The Garden & Gun Club will go back to the fabulous years with its Disco Era NYE bash. DJ Andy Kastanas will be spinning the disco and house classics all night. Party favors, champagne toast. Doors open at 9 p.m. $15 for members, $20 for guests.
  • Kiss Lounge, in conjunction with Pendulum Party, celebrates NYE 2009 with a special party open only to couples and single females. Unlimited champagne and KISS shots, complimentary hors d'oeuvres. $100 per couple, $50 per single female. More info here.
  • Purgatory on New Year's Eve at Amos' Southend. Music by DJ Koji, End: The DJ and Mixtress Krikett. Live performances by Filth on Demand and fetish performers. Featuring 10 fully interactive VIP fetish play areas including Dr. Spankenstein and rope suspension. Ages 18 and up. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets: $20 general admission, $25 VIP.
  • The NYE party at NoDa's 28th Davidson Atrium will benefit the NoDa School of Arts. Music, treats from Amelie's Bakery, champagne toast. 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased here.
  • The Art of Celebration at Stir, featuring DJ Biz Markie. Hosted by Power 98's Danny Diaz. Party favors, champagne toast, live countdown to 2009 from Times Square on the big screen. General admission $30, VIP $60. Tickets here.
  • New Year's Eve at the Red Lion Tavern. Full dinner buffet, champagne toast, after-midnight breakfast buffet and live music. $25 per person. Call 704-302-1215.
  • M5 celebrates New Year's in SouthPark style. Special menu. DJ spinning music all night. Full dinner menu available until 11 p.m. 4300 Sharon Road. 704-909-5500.
  • Le Grande Holiday Soiree at NV Lounge. Champagne toast, $1,000 balloon drop at midnight, cash giveaways, music by DJ Supa Dave, breakfast at 2 a.m. VIP admission includes appetizer buffet and private open bar. 9 p.m. 20924 Torrence Chapel Road. $100 VIP; $25 general admission in advance, $30 at the door.
  • BBW and BHM Masquerade Ball for the big beautiful women and big handsome men in the Charlotte area. 8 p.m. Crowne Plaza, 201 S. McDowell St. $40. E-mail for more info.
  • A New York New Year's Eve at the Pub at Gateway. Party favors, complimentary buffet, champagne toast. Music by DJ Eye-U. 8 p.m. 710 W. Trade St. $15 in advance, $20 at the door. 704-333-9818.
  • Cans' New Year's Eve Celebration. Buffet, champagne toast, party favors and entertainment. 9 p.m. 500 W. Fifth St. $20 in advance, $30 at the door. Contact 773-276-7582 and ask for Kathy or Erica for details.
  • Mez celebrates NYE with its first Black Tie Ball. Champagne toast, balloon drop, party favors and passed hors d'oeuvres. Limited advance tickets available for $40 online or at the restaurant/lounge. 
  • 2nd Annual New Year's Eve Blowout at Buckwild, featuring Angie Aparo live. Champagne toast, $5,000 balloon drop in cash and prizes. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
  • New Year's Eve 2009 at Bar Charlotte. Party favors, balloon drop, raffle prizes, free mechanical bull rides and a champagne toast. Ages 18 and up. $20 for those 21 and over; $25 18-20. Tickets here.
  • NYE at Brick & Barrel features $5 Mason Jar drinks, live entertainment on both floors and a champagne toast. Call Aaron to RSVP and lock in no cover: 704-975-8019.
  • Special couples menu at Bull & Barrister Draft House and Grille. For residents in Northwest Charlotte, you can stay close to home this NYE. The dinner special features a choice of one appetizer, one entree and one dessert per couple for $17.99 per person. DJ Wizard will be providing the music starting at 9:30 p.m. Champagne toast. More info here.

Updated holiday party list

Here's a list of festive fetes this month. Don't see yours on the list? Send me an e-mail with the details. Happy holidays!

Dec. 16

  • Analog Daze at the Double Door Inn. Party like a rock star with Analog Daze at this Christmas party. Food, drinks and live music. 8-midnight. Info here.
Dec. 17
  • Pet PALS Holiday Bash at Suite. 7-9:30 p.m. $15 at the door (includes one drink ticket). Proceeds benefit the Humane Society of Charlotte.
  • Holiday Happy Hour at Brio. Mingle with the Young Affiliates of the Mint during their monthly social with a holiday theme. 6-9 p.m. No cover.
  • Gin Mill is hosting an "Appreciation, 3/4 of the way to St. Paddy's, Recession Proof Christmas Party." $1 domestics, $2 imports, $3 house liquor. Live Irish music from The Merrows. Karaoke later in the night. 
  • Rusty Rudder's Ugly Sweater/Naughty Santa party. Starts at 8 p.m. No cover. Karaoke. Specials include $1 Miller High Life bottles, $1.50 Coors Light drafts, $2 domestic bottles and $5 Sweet Tea Vodka drinks.
Dec. 18
  • 8th Annual Blitzen's Holiday Party. DJ spinning holiday tunes. Passed appetizers and drink specials. Silent auction features spa packages, a trip for two, and gift certificates to area restaurants and retail stores. 6-10 p.m. at BlackFinn Saloon. $5. Portion of proceeds benefit American Red Cross. Get your tickets here.
  • Cans Bad Sweater Party. Bring out your ugliest sweater (holiday-themed preferred) and win a prize for worst sweater. $4 Skyy Red Bull, $2 Swill of the Month. Music from DJ Stix. Starts at 9 p.m.
Dec. 19
  • The Gathering: A Soulful Xmas Party, hosted by Consuella and Brittney Cason. Collecting toys for toys for tots, canned goods and handbags for Bags of Love. Music by The Sol Kitchen and DJ DR. Starts at 10 p.m. at Alive in NoDa. $10 cover.
  • Sunset's Ugliest Christmas Sweater Party. Dig out that old ugly Christmas sweater your grandma once gave you and make it pay off. The club is giving away a free VIP section and bottle service to the one that has the most tacky holiday sweater. Starts at 10 p.m.
  • Naughty or Nice/Sexy Santa party at Bar Charlotte. Sexiest Santa wins $500 cash. No cover if you bring an unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots. Starts at 9 p.m. 
Dec. 20
  • Blue Santa Benefit Party at Blue Restaurant. $3 drafts, $6 martinis. Live music from the Presley Brothers. Proceeds benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank. $5 cover without a canned food item. Free with a food donation.
  • Executive Entertainment presents The Black Affair, a Christmas Party at Grand Central Events on Central Avenue. More info here.
Dec. 24
  • Matzo Ball Party. Forum, along with the Society of Young Jewish Professionals hosts a party for all those who aren't celebrating Christmas Eve. SYJP offers men and women ages 21-49 the opportunity to develop networking connections, long-lasting friendships and romantic relationships. 9 p.m. $30 at the door or online here.
Dec. 27
  • Queen City Hollywood at the Blake Hotel. Enjoy two ballrooms with different music (pop, hip-hop and old school in one, a live jazz band in the other). Complimentary hors d'oeuvres. Gift bags and over $2,000 in giveaways. Hosted by Power 98's Consuella and Ife Moore. Guests include Bobby Valentino, Ryan Leslie, Wali Rainer, Aaron Brooks, Angelo Crowell and Dre Bly. Tickets are $35. Click here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Whisky River employee arrested

An employee at Whisky River was arrested as he arrived for work Tuesday night at the EpiCentre bar in uptown.

Anthony Ortega Rodriguez, who worked security at the front door, was arrested on warrants for selling cocaine to undercover detectives from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

According to a press release, Rodriguez's arrest was the culmination of an investigation that began after CMPD received complaints about drugs being sold inside the bar.

At the time of his arrest, officers found 12 bags of cocaine totaling 15 grams in his pocket.

Bob Durkin, president of Bar Management Group, which runs the bar for owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., said Rodriguez is no longer employed.

"We are definitely shocked by the whole thing," Durkin said. "We go through extensive background checks on everyone we hire."

Durkin also said BMG has a zero tolerance policy for drugs in its bars, requiring employees to sign a form saying they will not bring drugs on the premises and to report employees who do.

"We take as many steps as we can," Durkin said. "Unfortunately, we had one bad seed."

Second String Santa draws 4,000

More than 4,000 people turned out to Time Warner Cable Arena on Tuesday night with gifts in hand.

The annual Second String Santa party celebrated its 20th anniversary in a big way, collecting more than 3,000 gifts for needy children in the Charlotte area and raising a record $57,000.

The party was started by a group of friends who wanted to celebrate the spirit of the holiday season by collecting toys for children. The first year saw 600 guests at a backyard gathering and that number has steadily grown, making it one of the biggest social events of the season. It outgrew its longtime location at Founders Hall and moved to the uptown arena this year.

I hadn't been to the party when it was at Founders Hall, but I have a few suggestions for next year if they decide to hold it at the arena again.

  • Kill the fluorescent lights in the concourse at the arena. The lights were unforgiving and took away from the festive atmosphere. Hint: Ladies love Christmas twinkle lights. They make everyone look gorgeous.
  • Add a dress code to invites. I saw people in a broad range of outfits, from summer-weight dresses to women in full prom hair and makeup and full-length gowns. Cocktail attire seems appropriate for a holiday party. Although I have to give kudos to the three brave men in jaunty Christmas sweaters.
  • More bars! I saw a comment on a web site before I went along the lines of "You know how long you have to wait for a drink at SSS..." And while we're on the subject of adding stuff, more coat check areas are needed. My friends waited at least 20 minutes just to check their coats. Total buzzkill.

But aside from the lighting and long lines, it was cool to see so many people out on a Tuesday night, celebrating the giving season -- and enthusiastically partaking in the open bar. The arena floor was a sea of people socializing and dancing along with the live band to hits like "Proud Mary." I heard one person say "this is more people than they get for Bobcats games."

Even Michael Jordan made an appearance, briefly passing through the VIP area of the party before watching the festivities on the floor from an upper-level suite.

For more pics from the evening, click here and here.