Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Martini lounge braves uptown's no-man's land

Carlos Combs hopes couches, free parking and an upscale atmosphere will separate Charlotte’s newest martini lounge from the competition.

Combs’ Rustic Martini officially opened last week on North Tryon near Ninth Street. It joins a slew of martini bars in Center City, from Loft 1523 to Tutto Mondo to Therapy. Combs says his spot is the only true lounge –- with sofas, a humidor, a stonework bar and all premium well liquors -– on Tryon. Martinis cost $12.

Combs, a Fairfax, Va., native, picked the spot two years ago, but couldn’t close the deal because he was sent to Kuwait for the Coast Guard.

After finishing his active-duty commitment, Combs bought a former bank and turned it into Rustic. The spot has two patios. The one out front is good for people-watching (although there aren’t a lot of people on that end of Tryon). The patio out back overlooks the parking lot, so there isn’t much to see -- but it’s a good place to go if you want to be incognito.

Combs plans to offer VIP members free birthday parties. His staff will hire a limo for the birthday boy or girl, send out invitations and create a photo album from the party. Combs said he will also offer complimentary cab fare of up to one mile for members.

He’s going to need those types of amenities and more to be successful. North Tryon past Seventh Street doesn’t receive the same amount of foot traffic as businesses between the Square and Seventh Street. New Orleans restaurant GW Finns is slated to open next month. It’s where the Palomino restaurant was, so that should help generate more traffic on that end of the street.

Combs isn’t relying on Charlotte’s martini crowd. He’s building a steady clientele by renting the space to wedding parties for engagement parties and pre-wedding receptions.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

This sounds great! How much is VIP membership?

Anonymous said...

I actually visited Rustic on Saturday evening.. The atmosphere is wonderful and a great spot if you are trying to be on the "DL".. Less stressful than Therapy.. The only thing is that there martini list needs to be longer...

Anonymous said...

Wait, I don't get it. Do you have to pay to be able to go to this place? Is it a PRIVATE club?

Tonya Jameson said...

In theory, all establishments that sell alcohol, but no food are private. However, few actually enforce that law. Rustic is selling general and VIP memberships, but unless it's closed for a private event it's open to the public. As soon as I get membership rates, I'll post the information.

Anonymous said...

Complimentary cab for one mile? You could walk that mile in half the time you wait for the cab to pick you up. Nothing wrong with being drunk, but don't be lazy.

MyChau said...

Rustic Martini is really really nice, I love the atomspher, martinis were AWESOME, the staff seemed to be nice, the valet guy was extremely nice and polite and love the front/back patios. BUT a few things bothered me. We sat outside and once the door closes you can't hear any music. There's only one bathroom, not good for the ladies who have had a few martinis!!! And what bothered me the most...as I was sitting there a few caucasian men walked in, one particular guy had on a tshirt and some flip flops, they door guy kindly said that this is grand opening and that there is a dress code, but tonight was ok. About 10 minutes pass and a few African American guys walk up and what they had on did not permit them to get in. They had shoes on, NOT flip flops - NOT a t-shirt but a button up, but they could not get in. Found this NOT awesome and NOT cool. I will not go back.

Anonymous said...

That's Charlotte for you...this is the most racist place I've ever been in when its comes to going out...
I refuse to patronize several places here because I feel like my money isn't appreciated....I can wear dirty holey jeans, but not a white t-shirt? Ugly, steel toe boots but not Timbs?
I feel like you might as well just post a sign saying we don't want you.

Anonymous said...

That's true. I'm glad you mentioned that. I will not even consider going to Rustic, just b/c of that last comment.

I had the same thing happen to me 2 weeks ago at BAR. "Different line for you, man." WTF?!?!?

Thanks for the observation.