On The week of April 1st, I received an email from someone who worked for a marketing company based in New York. It read:
"I'm happy to share that The Dock returns this weekend! Starting Saturday night April 1 at 9 p.m., Uptown speakeasy, The Dock will once again throw open its doors. After renovations, The Dock is more easily accessible though guests will still have to look for the light in the loading dock of the Charlotte Marriott City Center on N. Church St.
"The Dock will be open every Saturday night serving five Prohibition era cocktails, wine, beer and snacks... along with a few surprises. On other nights, the space will be Charlotte's most unique private event space.
"If you'd like to check out The Dock this Saturday night (4/1), just arrive early and use the secret password – 'April Fool's' (no joke!) – to skip the line."
This sounded too good to be true. If you've followed along, you know checking out The Dock has been at the top of my to-do list since I caught wind of the new, secret spot back in fall 2016. I'm sure you're wondering, "If it was at the top of your list, Aerin, why are you just now going? It's June 2017, after all!" Sighs. A combination of too much to drink on certain nights, inclement weather on others but mostly, they were shut down by the fire department for a short while i.e. "renovations."
Now back to this email. The more I talked about the contents of this email from a stranger, the more I started to freak myself out about whether or not it was legit. Why New York? No marketing for The Dock on his social? Was this really an April Fool's joke? What if he was a creeper? Maybe I watch way too many horror movies, but you're not going to catch me walking around a part of Uptown I'm less familiar with looking for a secret entrance based on an invite from an out-of-state stranger.
I decided I wouldn't go until I didn't have to go by myself. Next thing you know, it's June and my girlfriends and I are planning a girls' night to check it out finally. Better late than never though, right?
We hopped out of our Uber and approached the stairs of the loading dock. Once inside, we rounded the corner and another door with a handwritten sign on a piece of scrap paper read: Welcome to The Dock. White brick, corrugated metal on the ceiling, string lights, barrels for tables and a small buffet toward the front contribute to the intimate, cocktail party-style vibe in the small space.
The crowd was slightly more pompous than typical partygoers at SIP — the place we ended up going after. But then again, why wouldn't an elusive, underground bar with a limited drink menu attract a "more mature" crowd? Ever so tipsy and a wee bit uncomfortable, we were dead set on grabbing at least one drink before heading somewhere we could truly turn up.
We approached the buffet, where the bartender was literally turning up the heat on a Manhattan he was preparing. The drink menu was outlined in chalk on small board: Evening Libations – Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sidecar, French 75 and Rum Punch. After waiting for a bit while he handcrafted each cocktail, we decided we'd just grab a glass of champagne. (Or maybe it was the fact that we'd already "tied a few on" and couldn't handle a strong cocktail?) We chatted with the bar manager while he mixed drinks about the recent changes they'd made, the drink menu and the bar's limited marketing strategy – you can't find info on them anywhere outside of articles.
He explained that the concept for The Dock was inspired by Prohibition (not the other Uptown bar, the time period). When you think back to the 1930s and the illegality of consumption, you don't think about social media or Google Plus pages. Instead, you think of keeping things on the hush, hush. Spreading the good news about your secret cocktail room via word of mouth.
Overall? The Dock is a cool-ass space for hosting a private event or coordinating the pregame before the pregame. Or maybe you want to take your "Real Sidechick of Charlotte" — if you haven't heard, GOOGLE IT NOW – to a quiet spot where no one will see you. Or maybe even find a Sugar Daddy — don't Google that one at work, things could get hairy. Whatever your reason for going, experiencing it for yourself almost feels like a rite of passage in the Queen City.