Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Americana closes - already

Whoa, I knew The Americana was going to have a tough time surviving in Pineville, but I didn’t think the live-music venue would close less than a month after its grand opening.

But it did.

In a brief e-mail today, music director Kevin Clark wrote: “The Americana in Pineville has closed its doors. "

Hopefully, Charlotte will be able to support a venue of this caliber in the future.”

The problem isn’t Charlotte. The problem, as I wrote last week, was The Americana’s business plan. You don’t open a spot like that in Pineville and expect success. Plus, there was no way people in this area were going to pay casual-dining prices and also be expected to fork over a cover charge to hear roots music. For example, The Little Dooey Barbecue & Blues restaurant in Concord has great food, but doesn’t charge a cover for its live blues on Sundays.

And to everyone blasting me about the previous blog, get real. You obviously read my blogs consistently, so you know I support live music. But I also know that in Charlotte, people don’t like to pay cover charges – period.


Anonymous said...

No doubt, you support major acts that play in arenas. You support Stevie Wonder and the Police and all the other major acts that came through. You also support a variety of DJs who illegally sample the music of others. You don't support anything else. And that is exactly the reason that people that might have gone to Ziggy's or The Orange Peel or Cat's Cradle don't often come to Charlotte, because people like you refuse to pay the $5 to $15 to go see them perform. The Visulite, Neighborhood Theatre, and the Double Door (to a lesser extent) are the only legitimate music venues in town (absent of course the new Snug Harbor and the Milestone-although they feature primarily more hardcore music.) You are adding to the problem. I'll bet you happily pay $5 to go into the Alley Cat and listen to yet another band play their poorly copied versions of Journey and Guns N' Roses covers...

Anonymous said...

If a place advertises dinner and a show you shouldn't have to pay cover.

Anonymous said...

Out of business in less than 2 months? It's not that Charlotte's (or Pineville's) not ready, it's someone didn't do their homework. It wouldn't take much of a market study to determine that Pineville was not the best location for such a concept. Add medicore food, less than stellar service and a cover charge to the mix and you've got a sure fire failure on your hands.

Anonymous said...

We visited one night last month and knew that place was a goner. A Cracker Barrel/Roots Music theme restaurant. Too bad - they had some great musicians scheduled who could definitely use the exposure. In a place like the Americana it appeared that the musical performers were a sideshow for the cookbooks, pottery, and jars of "homemade" jams for sale to the patrons. We are fans of the Evening Muse and Neighborhood Theatre, which have real atmosphere and a lower price tag, without the jelly.

Anonymous said...

Grand Opening! Grand Closing!

Trumpcard said...

I know Rich (the man behind the Americana project) really well, and he actually approached me about joining in from the beginning. I'm pretty well established from a business perspective in the Charlotte music scene, I'm part owner in a couple of clubs/bars around town, and I use to be one of the owners of a local music magazine, have been a member in the Charlotte Entertainment Cartel, and on top of that, I'm a musician as well, and have been playing the Charlotte music scene for years in various bands, so I know it very well inside and out. I'd like to address both the situation with the Americana, and the Charlotte music scene as a whole as both are points of discussion in this blog.

On the Americana:

When Rich approached me and showed me the business plan, I LOVED the concept, and the comparison to places like the Bluebird, and Swallow in the Hollow immediately came to mind. Charlotte could definitely support a dinner/music venture like this, if orchestrated correctly. Rich was absolutely passionate about it, a good man with a good heart and a great concept (all very important considerations for me in my business dealings), and had wonderful aspirations, and had obviously poured his heart and soul into the concept and dream he had of making it happen. Rich lived the Americana, and his passion for the project was infectious. Rich, is a fantastic guy, and the concept is solid.

I looked over his business plan and immediately had issues with it. The numbers were completely unrealistic in my opinion, and the overhead for the business was extremely high and they performed far too many comparisons to venues OUTSIDE of Charlotte while largely ignoring venues/restaurants in Charlotte. The overhead was far too high for such an untested concept in my opinion. When I looked at his first location choice, (in the Thomas Street area), I loved the location, but was very worried about the size/lease overhead of the property, and the amount of extra construction he wanted to put it just to open the door. It was all unnecessary to start the business, and would detract from initial operating capital. I had a very emotional failure trying to open a club a few years ago due to construction budgets and changes in the fire codes that caused it to tank. I had my heart in it and took a very bad hit emotionally (but luckily not financially), so I was VERY concerned that he was repeating my mistake of being overly optimistic because he believed so strongly in it.

That 1st property never came to see the light of day (it was a better property overall for the project than the 2nd one in Pineville, but was still grasping too far), and he called me when he was investigating the location in Pineville. Once again, I came in, and took a look, still loving the concept, but having serious reservations over the scope, budget, and location, and additionally the existing business that was there.

Long story short, I promised to support him in anyway I could because I believed in him as a person and admired his dedication and passion to the project, but felt very very uncomfortable about the risks involved, as I believed many of the risks could have been curtailed through a better choice of locations, and scaling the project back for a day 1 implementation. Start small, build up, and don’t start so big with something so untested in the Charlotte market.

Whenever I would talk to someone about the Americana, I would always express my fears, but still indicate my optimism that it would succeed, though my prediction was that it would not.

I was excited when the doors opened, and hopeful for the sake of all involved. When I contacted Rich, and he informed me of the Americana failure, I was honestly very upset. That project had so much love, passion, and the steam of so many wonderful people, that it was heart wrenching to know that it didn’t work. I predicted absolutely what was going to happen, but took no consolation in this case in being right (normally I love to gloat when I’m right!)

The Americana could absolutely succeed in Charlotte. I don’t know their plans now, but it still could. I truly believe in the concept, and think it could work under the right conditions. I contacted Rich and told him exactly that. Don’t lose hope because of this, it could be rectified and reimplemented and still happen. My hope from the beginning would have been a location about 1/3 the size and cost of what they went with, and in the Thomas Street area. There are still good possibilities out there for the right person to capture.

So, in a nutshell, my opinion on this is that it was a brilliant concept by a group of great people, with overly idealist perceptions of the Charlotte market, and poor execution.

I have absolutely no doubt however, that they can come around and make the idea work by correcting the issues in the business plan. I hope that they do, because I would love to be a part of something with so much heart and soul. Bless all those guys for trying, and they certainly won me over, so I’ll definitely be 1st in line for interest when they regroup and reform, they’ll just have learned from their mistakes. John over at Amo’s has a quote by Churchill on his wall that comes to mind; Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

On the Charlotte music scene:

I have a pretty complete perspective on the Charlotte scene as I’ve been involved in it from a business ownership, and performing musician perspective. Charlotte is completely unlike other city music scenes I’ve been involved in, and it’s changed so much over the years. There are AMAZING clubs here (The Milestone, Amos, Tremont, Visualite, and Double Door just to name a few, and too the poster that mention ‘the only legitimate venues, you’re obviously very particular about what you want to hear, but I don’t think its fair leaving other places off your legitimacy list because its not your cup of tea. As a lover of all music genres, I recognize that there are A LOT of credible and good venues in the city limits, and a lot of extremely good talent). What we don’t have yet is marketability, and endorsement by the city as a whole. The City of Charlotte has been so wish washy on their support of the arts in general, and music culture of the city in their mad dash to compete with larger cities on every other front. I’ve seen plans that are in the works to change all that, and within the next 18 months you may see a huge change, but I am a realist, and until I see it, I won’t believe it). Noah over at Queen City has some great ideas, but I think that’s still 5-10 years off.

On top of that, we need a band, or performer to come along and polarize the city as a whole. Make the average person in Charlotte aware of the rich musical tradition (I was playing in rock bands in the 80’s and 90’s when Charlotte had a hopping scene. It was great back then! Everyone I know misses venues like Fat City, Rocky’s, Jeremiahs).

While a lot of other people utter how much they despise American Idol, I secretly hope for a winner from Charlotte. I know that it would create interest again, bring the eyes of the average non music lover in Charlotte back to what is here to offer, and create a stir that the city would respond to. Point in fact. Chris Daultry came to Amos, sold out in a day. That doesn’t happen often, and he was just from NC, not Charlotte. We don’t have a band yet that has come along to polarize the scene, and we really need a solid club downtown to present local talent that will appeal to the suit and tie audience, which is who needs to be won over.

Charlotte has a great scene, and honestly I’m sick of the negative attitude a lot of people take towards it., and I’m pretty confident we’ll see it ignite in the next 5 years.

People will spend 80$ on drinks at Cosmos, and complain about paying a 10$ cover charge to support 3 really good local bands. I do agree with that comment, we’re all a part of the problem, when we don’t take the chance. So many people won’t go to the Milestone because of its location, but in YEARS of going there, I’ve never had a single problem, and the new owner Neil, is about as passionate of a guy as you’ll find around here about having a quality music venue, even if it is underground.

For the poster that complained about crappy bands playing covers, there is absolutely a place for that. Not everyone goes out to enjoy original music, some people enjoy live music not for its originality and execution, but for the atmosphere it creates. They want to party and have fun. I’m one, I love to have a great time, but as a musician, I like to see music performed well. Go see Superglide play, and see what I mean. Amazing band. And I’m not just saying that because I play in a cover band myself!

All in all, I think we’re on the verge of revitalization in music interest, and I think we have banal things like American Idol, Rockstar Supernova, and Guitar Hero/Rock Band to thank for that. People are paying attention to music again, and not just as background noise.