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"I just love going there and it's been one of those clubs that makes you feel welcome," Hayes says. "They always treat fans well and the bands enjoy playing there. [Buying it] is a no-brainer."
A new Neighborhood?
The future of the Neighborhood Theatre isn't as clear at this point -- for the current staff or the venue itself. After the downturn in the economy and years of poorly attended shows and money spent on refurbishing the club, JEM, the management partnership that has been running the venue for the last six years, had to make a decision -- should they stay or should they go?
The answer didn't come easy. JEM -- Zach McNabb, Gary Leonhardt, Mike Stone and silent partner Joshua Landry -- has been putting a lot of heart and soul -- and money -- into the place since they bought it.
"The Neighborhood Theatre is more than the building itself, it's the people who run it," Leonhardt says. "That's why it hurts the most. My heart sank when I thought about losing the family we have here. It's the last thing we wanted to do. For Zach to come to me and say it's too much -- we're always in the red and always behind the eight ball. It's never a constant ride."
While JEM assumed it would be easy to get four or five hundred people in for the recent WAR concert, only 100 people attended. It's stories like that which have added up to the point of leaving they're at now.
While the previous owner had concerts in the venue -- the first was in October of 1997 -- it was JEM that brought in the national spotlight and bigger touring bands. They may have been a little green to begin with, but years of experience led up to multiple night stands with .moe and the Black Crowes, to name a few.
"We've taken it so far and we haven't done everything right along the way, but it's too much," McNabb says. "This week I've gone back and forth on what we can do to stay here or can we stay here. We're in good spirits though because of all we've done and all we've accomplished. It's still going -- I've got four big shows I'm trying to get booked before the end of March."
When JEM got into the business, they "got in cheap" and were never thinking about six years down the road. They were more focused on diversifying the music and building a great reputation -- both of which have been accomplished.
Leonhardt says they've also done a lot of work on the building itself -- jackhammering concrete where the seats were, rewiring electric lines, $10,000 to build the VIP sections, $16,000 for repairing sewer lines last year and the list goes on. "We put a lot of heart into every corner of this building," he says.
JEM -- which plans to leave with or sell the business at the end of March -- owns the business side, while Tyler Foster owns the building and venue name. A "Save the Neighborhood Theatre" page on Facebook has more than 6,500 fans, but it might be unnecessary. Foster plans on finding a new management group to keep the venue going.
Foster says he has been contacted by a number of people who have shown interest in taking over the business and hopes to have a plan finalized soon for a seamless transition.
"[JEM] decided they want to leave, so we're going to negotiate the best we can how to get out of that lease," Foster says. "As far as the venue, it's going to continue to be a music venue. I have a new group -- we're in negotiations right now. They're very talented and have decades of experience in the industry. I feel very confident that they can come in and we can bring in the same artists that have been there that have been popular, while adding new artists, doing more community events and fill in the holes."
On that point, everyone agrees -- no one wants to see the venue close and everyone wants to see it continue down the same path it was on as far as the acts that performed there for years to come.
As for JEM, it's unknown at this point what the group will do down the road. They have to wait and see if someone comes in and buys all of the equipment, mailing lists and contact information and/or if Charlotte needs their services at another location.