Hi, everybody. I’m sorry you guys were afraid to ask me all those questions about the EpiCentre. In the future, if you’ve got questions just ask away. I’m here to help, especially if you’re confused about something in Uptown Charlotte.
Before we jump in, a few words on the EpiCentre. I don’t think it’s necessarily Charlotte’s must-see destination for food and entertainment, and the tenant mix certainly skews toward big national chains, but I think it plays a crucial role in Uptown. I understand the 20 things you were afraid to say largely had to do with the nightlife scene at EpiCentre, but you really can’t discount the huge role it plays throughout the workweek. The pharmacy, lunch options and, yes, the gym, are all ridiculously convenient for Uptown office dwellers, especially since most retail is spread out in the Overstreet Mall or lobbies of the office buildings.
So at the risk of defending a tower of corporate consumption akin to Biff’s casino in Back to the Future Two, here are my responses to all the things you were afraid to say about the EpiCentre:
(1) “What is the EpiCentre? A strip mall? A tourist trap? Six stories of clubs plus a movie theater? I have no idea how to explain this to my out-of-town friends.”
Think of the EpiCentre as the anchor of retail commerce in Uptown. When it was built on the site of the old convention center in 2009, there wasn’t a place to “eat/work/play”* in the center city. So it really filled a need in the city at the time. Because of the timing of its construction just before and during the nationwide financial downturn, the developers weren’t able to secure their ideal mix of tenants, so it’s been a mish-mash of restaurants, bars and retail ever since.
(2) “Can I actually afford to get into the bars at the EpiCentre?”
I don’t see why not. Some of the bars and clubs at EpiCentre have covers, just like bars and restaurants on 5th Street or at NC Music Factory. BlackFinn almost always tweets out trivia or something that you can say at the door to waive the cover charge.
(3) “And if I can, will I have enough left over to buy a drink?”
Sure! In my experience, a local beer at BlackFinn or Whiskey River runs about $4, which is about what you can expect to pay at any other bar in the city.
(4) “I think Alive After Five is under-the-radar-awkward.”
I think some context could help here. Alive After Five began, again, back in 2009 as a way to entice the people of Charlotte to stick around Uptown after work. You might not believe it now with the 5th Street corridor booming and a litany of other nightlife options around Uptown these days, but it was started as a way to get people to see that Uptown wasn’t “dead after 5:00.” Hence the name, Alive After Five.
As far as being awkward, if hanging out at a rooftop bar listening to live music on a warm summer evening is awkward, then consider me Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
(5) “A hotel on top? Really?”
Yeah! It’s going to be awesome! It’s going to have a rooftop bar and everything. I guess there could be a cover though ☹ ☹ ☹
(6) “Why book a hotel if you won’t be able to sleep?”
Because you plan on being the one making all the noise?
(7) “They should’ve made plans for an apartment building instead.”
If the EpiCentre was an apartment building, where would people go before Hornets games or concerts at TWC Arena? It’s flanked by surface parking lots, the Transportation Center, and two parking garages. That’s a recipe for boredom. Or Tampa.
(8) “Is this many people in this small of a space legal?”
Yeah, I hear you. Give me the wide open spaces of bars on Montford any day of the week.
(9) “Has anybody ever fallen down these stairs?”
I’ve slipped on them before. It’s easy to do when they’re wet and you’re wearing work shoes. That’s why I always walk next to the railing. #protip
(10) “I’m really nervous going down these stairs.”
There are a lot of them. Are you new to stairs? You sure have a lot of questions about stairs.
(11) “How many times am I going to have to wander around the parking garage before I find my car?”
Is the EpiCentre’s parking garage any worse/different than other parking garages? Sorry to answer your question with a question. In the scheme of terrible parking garages in Charlotte, I’m not sure if the EpiCentre cracks the top 10 — especially considering the one in Midtown is 1-5 on that list.
If finding your car in a parking garage is generally a problem for you, I hear devices and apps for monitoring your car and its location are a hot gift this holiday season. Perhaps St. Nick can hook you up.
(12) “Some of Whiskey River’s, um, ‘activities’ sketch me out. Yoga is NOT about wearing sexy yoga pants.”
You got me there, that’s kinda creepy. At least it’s not part of the corporate ethos like Hooters up the street. However, to Whiskey River’s credit, the promotion where you get free drinks whenever Dale Jr. wins a NASCAR race is awesome.
(13) “All it’s missing is an overpriced clothing store. The kind where, like, one of each item hangs on the rack at a time.”
They used to have multiple stores like that. They failed ☹. Now they have awesome pop-up shops and regular art shows during the summer. They’ve really gotten creative with the space there in recent years.
(14) “Or a brewery.”
They’d better not charge a cover!
(15) “I’m way too ugly post-workout to consider working out at Gold’s Gym. Talk about a walk of shame.”
There’s nothing shameful about leading a healthy lifestyle that emphasizes a balanced diet with plenty of whole fruits and vegetables and regular exercise.
(16) “Is this type of place the place that tourists think we spend our free time?”
I’m glad you brought this up. This is a big reason the EpiCentre is really important to Charlotte. Do you like that Charlotte has events like the Belk Bowl, ACC Championship game, the CIAA Tournament and top-tier musical acts? Or recurring professional sports like Hornets and Panthers games? Me too! Now imagine if EpiCentre didn’t exist. Where would all of those people go before and after the event? Dandelion Market? Rock Bottom? All 20,000 of those people? What about events like the ACC Fan Fest held before the championship game? EpiCentre is a perfect place for fans to gather for a singular event without wildly inconveniencing the normal traffic patterns of Uptown. Locals can then proceed to neighborhoods like NoDa, Plaza Midwood and Montford for their entertainment.
If Charlotte (or any city) is going to attract tourists, they need easily accessible, centrally located bars and restaurants close to the events the tourists are in town patronizing.
(17) “This place seemed a lot cooler before I could legally do most of what’s here.”
I’ve reported you to the authorities. You should’ve waited until the statute of limitations ran out to admit your illegal activity.
(18) “Can you speak a little louder? I can’t hear you over the dull roar.”
Isn’t a dull roar better than a full roar?
(19) “Never mind – can you just yell?”
The tourists don’t think the EpiCentre is corny, they just don’t like how the locals yell while standing two feet from one another.
(20) But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel: “I can eat — and drink — at the movie theater.”
No doubt. Plus they normally have that Groupon for a $5 movie ticket. Fantastic.
So to sum up, the EpiCentre isn’t perfect, but it filled an important need at the time it was built. It was also indirectly responsible for showing developers what was possible in Uptown so that they could develop trendier, better places.
*such was the parlance of the time