On Jan. 11, 2010, the Neighborhood Theatre announced it was planning to shut its doors for good. Fingers were pointed and panic set in. While the management team (JEM Entertainment) was ready to walk away from the venue, thousands of fans joined a "Save the Neighborhood Theatre" Facebook page, voiced their concerns and showed their love.
After six years, the folks behind JEM — Zach McNabb, Gary Leonhardt, Mike Stone and silent partner Joshua Landry — had a tough decision. Poorly attended shows and a number of repairs had pushed them as far as they could go financially, and it was time to move on. The building's owner, Tyler Foster, said he would keep the venue going and was looking at new management teams.
The Jan. 27 Creative Loafing cover story I wrote gave insight into JEM's decision and helped push the "Save the Neighborhood Theatre" movement. Within days after the publication hit newsstands, more than 6,500 people had joined the Facebook page.
"We saw a reaction immediately, and it surprised us all," McNabb says. "We decided to sit down and tell our story to answer the question of why we were closing the doors, not to rally customer support to keep us open."
All of the love and support convinced JEM to stick around. There have been bumps along the way, but the team realizes how important the venue is for music fans in the Charlotte area.
"It's been a long ride down a slippery slope for us, and it still is," McNabb says. "We still struggle on a monthly basis, but the energy in the facility is stronger than ever. In the end, we might have a few less big and risky shows; however, we are still doing enough events in a variety of genres to satisfy our role in the Charlotte music scene."
Fans are happy that two years after the big scare, the Neighborhood Theatre's doors remain open and the club hasn't missed a beat.