So, to see if that were the case, we went to the many bars and clubs and lofts and restaurants of the EpiCentre, the enormous $200 million mixed-use extravaganza that recently opened in Uptown, which is what most people would call downtown (dont ask -- its confusing). It was a rebuke to the notion that the party could ever end, the perfect place to see if Charlottes heartbeat was still strong.
From the looks of things at StrikeCity, the shoulder-to-shoulder nightclub-cumbowling alley at the EpiCentres center, the answer was a resounding yes. The place was packed with youthful, free-spending revelers, many of whom had just left the Charlotte Bobcats late-season basketball contest -- including, I was told, Bobcats themselves.
We were first alerted to the presence of said professional-sports stars by the intense stare from a pride of middle-aged females to our right. I followed their gaze and saw a lonely man standing by a door in the back of the club. We sauntered over to the doorman, who, it turned out, was also part bouncer for the back room with the two private lanes. He kindly but firmly told us he couldnt let us into the VIP area. At that point, a power forward from the team, which had just lost a heartbreaking game down the street at the Time Warner Cable Arena, walked in and joined the other very important bowlers.
You understand, dont you? the doorman asked us when my friends tried to name-drop to gain access. (Note to readers: In-flight-magazine back-page writer is not as impressive a sobriquet as you might imagine.) Id do the same thing if you guys paid for the room. It was good to know that my colleague Carlton Stowers wouldnt be allowed to crash my party in Char-town.
Where to next? We had already gorged like kings at the EpiCentre steak house Flemings. Of course, wed eaten the choicest cuts. And of course, my friend, a big-shot developer in town, had been sent a bottle of wine by the manager -- people who build big, beautiful buildings are rock stars in Charlotte. Its a bootstrap city, made flush by land deals and the banking industry. Musician, actor, TV personality pffft. Have they ever gotten 30 percent return on a downtown parking lot? Dinner had been just more proof that here, in the words of noted songwriter/economist Robert Earl Keen, the road may indeed go on forever and the party certainly never ends.