Monday, July 30, 2007

Did Menage shoot itself in the foot?

In my New Year’s prediction last year, I said Menage would be the place to watch because it had changed so much since opening in 2004.

In 2006, it went from being a premier nightspot to adding a restaurant on the second floor – weird – to allowing black promoters to book prime weekend nights (often a sign of money problems).

The reported sale of Menage is dramatic considering the hype surrounding the club’s opening. Before The Forum opened, Menage was the hotness, with three levels, posh lounge areas and a giant slide.

But drama also surrounded Menage from the git-go.
Not long after opening, there was a flap between owner Stefan Latorre and well-known local DJ Niz -- Niz said he wasn't compensated for being a consultant for Menage, while Latorre said Niz never worked for the club. Niz's backers began an e-mail campaign urging people not to go there; the note also alleged that Latorre snubbed two owners of the trendsetting Cosmos Cafe who had stopped by Menage's grand opening to congratulate him.

In the spring of 2005, the club came under fire when it stopped playing hip-hop on Fridays, a night which had been drawing a predominately black crowd.

Then later that year came the biggest of the controversies: A promoter accused the club of racial bias after the cancellation of a party that drew mostly blacks. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee cleared the club of any wrongdoing.

Not long after that PR fiasco, Latorre denied rumors that he was trying to sell the club and he turned the second floor into the restaurant Belle’s BBQ.

He also began reaching out more to black promoters. In recent months, Adolph R. Shiver had begun hosting parties there featuring various rap artists. This is significant because historically, many white Charlotte club owners have allowed black promoters to host parties at their venues to raise cash; it happened at Time (which is now closed), Liquid Lounge, and Crush, which is now a mostly hip-hop club. (Insiders tell me the reason that financially strapped clubs do this is because blacks, especially young ones, spend loads of money at bars.)

The fall of Menage is unfortunate. Had it been able to thrive alongside The Forum, it would have made Charlotte an even bigger regional draw and strengthened our nightlife overall. It’s hard for a city with only one upscale dance club to be a real nightlife destination.
Latorre hasn't responded to an e-mail request confirming the sale of the club and on his decision to sell the venue.)

Do you think all of the negative incidents killed Menage, or is Charlotte not big enough for two huge dance clubs? Post your replies below.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Charlotte is big enough for two dance clubs (and I wouldn't call either huge in terms of size either). I don't understand why more dance clubs don't open downtown. The Forum is going to get old if it is the only place like that to go.

Anonymous said...

This is just one of many negative implications from the loitering that is taking place in uptown on the weekends. On Saturday night, I saw at least 75 people along Tryon St. that were not patrons, but were practically taking over the sidewalk. I hate to generalize, but they were all 20-30 year old black men that were wearing 'thug' attire. This is also the demographic that is responsible for 70% of the car theft and robberies in Charlotte (yet they only represent 13% of the population in this age group).

Anonymous said...

Charlotts is defenitely not the place for "super"- or posh nightclubs. I am not surprised by the purported sell of Menage. Menage was trying to be something it is not-a Miami style superclub with three levels that left me scratching my head. What was the point? Who would want to walk down three flights of stairs in the dark in slick shoes? Charlotte does not have the nightlife or culture to support such a club. If Menage had scaled down the size of its mission and building size, maybe it would be still be chugging along. More so, it appears the owner did not research the city and the success of past clubs, e.g., Mythos.

Serge Kaplan said...

Instead of spreading rumors by writing complete and total hearsay in this "blog" of yours, why not for once try to set the record straight instead of trying to breed and foster conflict over some perceived racial slight some nameless person sent you an email about.

Truth is, you have no idea why the space was sold or what went on (if anything) to precipitate said sale. I mean, you could ALWAYS ASK THE OWNER YOURSELF, but I'm sure you'd rather leave the scent of some innuendo or hint of some scandal that doesn't even exist.

At the end of the day, it's really none of your &^%$#!@ business really how these people choose to do business, not to mention you clearly have no clue as to how the business youre constantly running your mouth about really works, and you aren't really interested in hearing the truth or telling it. Hyping club and business owners that cater to your interests (blacks, lesbians, etc) and ignoring and even villifying the rest.

You're a joke.

Anonymous said...

Menage was doomed from the beginning because of its hype and location. Remember when twist used to be the spot? What happened to that place, thats right, blackout. Remember Red Star, thats right, midnight run. Hopefully old men will stop designing "trendy" clubs because this town is a traveling party to these new bars, and eventually this party moves to the next newist thing. Charlotte is not like vegas, new york, or chicago, its not even atlanta (even though the owners of buckhead in charlotte must make piles of money). Being the coolest party scene dies fast here, and a five year plan is what bars need to make it.
and your comment that young black males "spend loads of money at the bars", not in this town. I have bartended here forever and that is not the demographic that blindly spends. Not even when Panther players are in town with their guns. You sell to the ladies so they attract people to by their drinks for them, or you pitch the the bud light style 3 Series boys that love to buy rounds of shots, because they can.
Better luck next time, here is an idea Mr. Latorre. Get younger, proven management from one of these big cities you so dreamed menage to be, then pick a demographic to sell to, and wait it out. Becuase i went to your bar one night, had free drinks, and never came back. it wasnt fun, it was like 3 levels of restaurants, but for some reason people were drinking and trying to squeeze on the upstairs dance floor.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte is built for raising families. It's a miracle there's any nightlife at all.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone who is buying all these uptown condos wants to see the loitering that goes on during the weekend...esp compared to when I moved here in 1998. Nobody wants another Buckhead (Atlanta). If you're not spending money, go away.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone who is buying all these uptown condos wants to see the loitering that goes on during the weekend...esp compared to when I moved here in 1998. Nobody wants another Buckhead (Atlanta). If you're not spending money, go away.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, the race card again. I wonder if she's kin to Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, as their behaviors are consistently similar.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte is a bunch of hokey tokey's that stuck in their horse and buggy ways. Anything of any size fails here.

Anonymous said...

I think it is pretty simple... people in Charlotte do not know how to have fun. They wouldn't know what real nightlife is about. Probably that church influence. Maybe they will replace it with a Jesus bar???

Anonymous said...

Why dont we face it that young black males do not have a lot of money. Every club that has tried to market to those groups has failed. Liquid lounge had a drive by in front of it 5 months before it closed. Once the young black males move in it is the kiss of death. Your statement is contradictory, the clubs try to save themselves with these high spending young black males. If they spent so much money, why did they close?

Anonymous said...

i like serge kaplans comment. :)

i have noticed that your blog is always full of inuendos and nothing is ever really solid. AND you are always on this race tip. what do you mean by "to allowing black promoters to book prime weekend nights (often a sign of money problems)." you are a black woman saying that the only time a white business man wants to do business with us is when they have hit rock bottom?

you're rock bottom for saying that and you look it too. can you get a new pic by the way?

now, as for the club scene. it is a shaky business no matter what. there is plenty of room for charlotte to have several clubs just like they have bars. it would be best for them to have a ton. if you want to post something about parties..ask why do we have to wait for so long and the prices get jacked up for nothing? a smart club owner knows if you let folks in and keep the price the same all nite and reasonabile (no more than $20), you make a huge profit!!! forum seems to know this...

signed-
Carlotta (the black woman who does not like you very much at all)

Anonymous said...

My daughter was a bartender at Menage, the statement that young black males spend money is absolutely false, as a matter of fact getting a tip is almost impossible from most of these young men, there was always conflict, fights and the like when it became a "black club". This is the kiss of death to any club in Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Did you say young black men spend loads of money at the bars? Who told you that lie, listen before you pull out the race card, I'm black, and I'm here to tell you that's false, all most of them do is hang around, spending money and especially leaving a tip is almost unheard of. And the attire most of them wear and the way they act scare people away. Get real sista.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully they'll be closing your blog soon too... it really is a shame they don't go after some better talent for both the column and the blog

Anonymous said...

First, if this same column had been written by a white columnist it would have been deemed racist.
Secondly, as someone who has tended bar in some of Charlotte's trendiest clubs I would have to say that African American's very rarely spend loads of money at the bar and they CERTAINLY don't tip.
Thirdly, why all the speculation? Why don't you research and find out EXACTLY what the reasoning for the bar closing was? Isn't that a journalists job?

Anonymous said...

Uh, people, Tonya HAS tried to find out why it closed:

"Latorre hasn't responded to an e-mail request confirming the sale of the club and on his decision to sell the venue."

Anonymous said...

You know what Tonya, you're a sad little narrow minded person. Why the Observer continues to keep you on the payroll, I will never know, but hopefully they will wise up soon and get rid of you. You stink. This blog needs to be written by someone who really knows and understand the nightclub scene, and someone who people can stand to look at, that's not you.

Anonymous said...

Well ACTUALLY black people DO spend more money at clubs BUT ONLY at the door! See what happens is we (bar owners) know that blacks will pay whatever to get into a place just to wear their ridiculous thug attire. Even if it means paying $40.00 at the door. Yes, I did witness that. However, they will NOT tip your bartenders and will complain about the service and ANYTHING else they can think of. I say they turn Menage into a starbucks, HEY you'll rarely see a thug in one of those huh???

Anonymous said...

The problem is dress codes. You let people come in any kind of way and they will act any kind of way. Go straight from the street to the clubs these days.

What happened to going home and getting dressed to go out? What happen to sharp brothas in shirts and slacks? How many thugs you think going put on some slacks to go to a club?

Club owners changed the codes to make money and this is the result.

Anonymous said...

The problem isnt inviting young black males. The problem is inviting those with a thug mentality. If you market to ingorance, you will in turn receive ignorance. If you market to young black males like myself (soon to finish a PhD) you will not have the thugs in your clubs. I realize that Charlotte has MAJOR class and ethnic issues, but some of you people are supposedly educated and can not formulate an independent thought. All black males aren't thugs. I am pretty sure that my wife and I make more money than 90% of the posters on this forum and we still have to deal with persons assuming that all young blacks are ignorant. Charlotte needs to wake up.

Anonymous said...

I will have to say I'm so glad that nasty place closed. My friends and I used to have to walk past that club on the weekend to go uptown or to another bar. We literally had to walk on the other side of the street so we wouldn't have the "thugs" trying to say stuff to us or possibly get shot. We were scared to even walk past that crowd. And when friends visited from out of town, it was embarrassing because one of them from Atlanta actually said "I thought Charlotte was a 'safe' town and you didn't have to worry about that here". She used to deal with that crowd in Buckhead in Atlanta and that is the reason Buckhead is pretty much dead now. After the shootings there several years ago, most people were too scared to go out there. I hope Charlotte won't lose its somewhat upscale reputation. And the post about the thugs loitering uptown is true - I wish the police could do more to get rid of that because it makes an unpleasant walk down Tryon Street on the weekend. And it's very obvious those thugs are not going to any bars/clubs because most of the uptown bars wouldn't allow them in there. And those types of bar goers NEVER tip. They don't tip in restaurants so why would they tip in bars? Go to Crush and leave uptown alone!

Michelle said...

Okay, this is absolutely disgusting... Young Black men are not the only patrons of nightclubs so they cannot be the only reason they close... It's not as though there aren't people of other races that stiff servers or cause trouble in nightclubs... Maybe young Black men the ones that everyone remembers... Everyone is commenting on how biased the writer of this blog is, yet the majority of you are doing the same thing you accuse this writer of doing by thinking with your closed minds with your generalizations and placing blame on one specific group... Hypocrisy is not a good way to make a point...

Anonymous said...

The negative comments on this blog are because Tanya's writing is so narrow minded, pedantic, condescending, repetetive, blaming ,...eccch.. I can only guess why the Observer keeps her on ... even the catchy column title "paid to party" is embarrassing. might as well say "paid to drink, and set a bad example for our young people". Insult to injury is that the column is on the front and inside page of the weekend section - ..nice..how many readers of the observer is this targeted at ? just the 21 to maybe 30 year olds who are still drinking and barhopping regularly. that is really not a large or big spending demographic group. and a new photo would help- maybe polish the image a bit. this is not about being black or gay, this is about writing skills, knowing your topic, and understanding your readers interest. but this has all been said before by many readers.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte is big enough to have two dance clubs, without a doubt. The problem with Menage started from day one. An owner with no experience who also thinks he knows everything, and the design of the club(the music design and the physical design). Most of Latorre's problems stemmed from him not knowing what he's doing and having a larger than necessary ego.
When a club goes to black promoters for urban nights on the weekend(main nights), they do so because they have lost or never had the mainstream(black, white,hispanic,asian, etc.,) crowd. Usually, money is low and they do not want to sink more money into what they think is a sinking ship. So, when black promoters come along that do all the promoting, the club owners feel this is a chance to try and get as much money out of it as possible to try and save their investment until they can think of what to do next. At this point the owners feel they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The young black community does spend money in clubs. Drinks like courvossier, hennessy and champagne are expensive drinks that are commonly purchased by this crowd. However it is quite common to see a purchase of a $150 bottle of champagne followed up with an extremely small($1-$5) tip. So, the bar is making money but the bartenders are not. But, money is being spent.
A comment was made about the music being changed. The club owner can change the music up anytime they want to. Sometimes, if a club is attracting a clientele that they don't want they have to change the music or risk losing the clientele that they do want to keep. Unfortunately, a necessary evil.
Before Menage went black they went country with Belle's BBQ. An upscale looking lounge changing to a bbq joint and sports bar without renovating. This was another horrible decision. But, when you are struggling to survive whats another stupid idea?
You make look at it as racist, but the truth of the matter is when a club changes to an exclusive urban program on the weekend it definitely means that there are money problems. If you are in the business you would know that this is as common as 2 coming after 1 in the numerical system. This is not racist, its fact.
It would be nice, actually great, for Charlotte to have 2 dance clubs. The Forum on the weekends is all mashups all the time and if you do not like this particular format of music you do not have much of an alternative in this city. Unfortunately with the mountain of issues surrounding Menage, this place did not have a chance of surviving and being a competitive alternative to The Forum. And that was obvious from day 1.
This is to Serge...Tonya did give Stefan a chance to respond, but he didn't return any e-mails sent his way. He could have if he wanted to but he chose not to. But, this is totally in character for Stefan and his overblown ego and stubburness.
Like it or not, going urban is the last step a club goes to before closing its doors. Menage did it, and look where it is now.
However, this has been in the coming for aloooooooooong time and thank goodness it finally happened. I absolutely hated driving by Menage after close on Fridays and Saturdays. The clientele coming out of Menage would loiter and take up to two lanes of traffic. Blocking and stopping traffic. Creating traffic jams for blocks because the police (sitting across the street watching and not doing anything) didn't step in to control the crowd on the actual street.
Thank you Menage for finally closing the eyesore that you created downtown.

Mdiius said...

i think the "I Love George Bush" following has a Everything is good except Black Males Movement going on right now in america. Sad thing about it is the same people that hate/find them problematic deep down fears them so much. Hey, if there was a vote, i bet you republicans would rather go back to the underground railroad. Then you could walk among each other with your noses up. RATHER HAVE THAT HUH.. shame shame shame. Much easier to be racist and show your true colors when there isn't any of those "gang-bangers, so-called thug" around. SHAME SHAME SHAME... if a club wants to open.. head north. Charlotte would much rather have KKKKramer at a club than BROWN PEOPLE.
Last thing..nobody makes a big fuss when the "its okay because there WHITE GUYS" or the "Tippers" get drunk and stumbles down tryon or i guess where ever black people AREN'T and gets in the car and drives home. NO FUSS. why??? because "ITS OKAY, BECAUSE THEY'RE WHITE".....