This past weekend I only had one item on my to-do list: check out The Dock, a prohibition-style speakeasy accessed through the loading dock of Charlotte Marriott Center City. The new-ish secret spot was closed last weekend due to weather, so I talked it up all week in anticipation of Saturday — the only day the place is open for business.
After seeing a tantalizing post on Instagram Saturday morning, the boyfriend and I decided to splurge for lunch at CO, a pan-Asian restaurant in the Park Road Shopping Center. Pork and ginger gyoza, pork and crab spring rolls, a California roll, caramel pork bahn mi and drunken Thai noodles. Have you ever heard the expression, "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach?" A jalapeno guava margarita nor a lemongrass ginger martini could wash away the itis that overcame us (see Urban Dictionary for definition of "itis").
We gathered our to-go boxes and bee-lined it home for a nap. Three hours later, it was dark outside and we drowsily started getting ready. As we pulled up in our Uber outside of the Marriott loading dock and approached the door it was hard for me to contain the months of anticipation that had built up.
We were greeted by an attendant who informed us that The Dock had been shut down by the fire department. And just like that, our dreams were crushed. However, the drunk couple that piled in behind us were having a harder time coping with the loss. "That's not what we hearrr..." the guy joked. "The man outside says we're in the right plaaace..." With every drunken lilt at the end of each of his sentences I could tell he thought the attendant was waiting for a magic password. The attendant's RBF (resting b*tch face), on the other hand, didn't appear to hold a single joke.
Defeated, we walked to Istanbul Hookah Lounge in Brevard Court/French Quarter/Latta Arcade. All I could think was, "Another venue in the Queen City bites the dust."
July of this year will mark my fifth anniversary living in Charlotte. In that short time, the nightlife landscape has gone through quite a few changes. Familiar buildings have traversed the entire alphabet of business names. Prime example: The NC Music Factory is now "Avidxchange?" Our favorite music venues are closing: Amos' Southend, The Chop Shop, Tremont Music Hall and Tommy's Pub. BAR Charlotte and its counterparts that dominated the space between E. 6th and E. 7th streets on N. College have passed on and since been replaced by a slew of venues that are a part of the new NorthSide Station.
As the Queen City explodes, we can agree on at least one consistency with regards to nightlife: it's constantly changing. And now that we've been ranked in the top 20 best places to live, according to the U.S. News & World Report, that landscape is going to continue to change. Hence, my dismay when I discovered The Tiki Hideaway, a Polynesian tapas and craft cocktails bar, was permanently closed after only a few months. And of course, my most recent disappointment, the shutting down of The Dock. So what now?
For as long as I can remember, random people have asked me some version of, "What's missing from Charlotte nightlife?" The familiar question usually follows my coming out as a nightlife writer and precedes the awkward response, "You know, I'm not really sure." Despite the fact that I easily get bored with the nightlife scene, I'd never sat down and ironed out the details of what it should look like.
Will new business owners attempt to skirt and swerve the authorities as bars and restaurants stray from traditional guidelines? Will the allure of hidden, underground, Prohibition-style spaces take over Uptown? Or will the obsession with skyscrapers and apartments give way to a series of #bestrooftopbarincharlotte contests? Will we fill the gap between young professionals and older demographics?
Personally, I'm hoping for a landscape that resembles that of New York. One teetering at the intersection of revolutionary, underground, modern and high-energy.
We've witnessed the rise of the brewery, the delight of craft cocktails, the influx of speakeasies and the diverse flavors of tapas. Let's hold on to the classics that promote texture: Snug Harbor, Roxbury, The Rabbit Hole, Abari, Petra's, Twenty-Two, Bar At 316, Jeff's Bucket Shop, etc. Then let's sprinkle in more late-night tapas restaurants, old school hip-hop and R&B, lounges, drag ball culture, secret passwords at underground venues and EDM dance parties on a residential property. The possibilities are limitless.