Chamber’s unruly neighbor makes an early departure

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by Jordan Green

Improbable neighbors part ways as the Status dance club leaves a downtown Winston-Salem building shared with the chamber of commerce.

The Winston-Salem nightclub Status announced a dramatic change through its own status in a Jan. 10 Facebook update.

“Let’s blow it out tonight!” the club posted. “Come party and say goodbye for our farewell bash. Tonight’s our last night.”

With a consistent format of DJs playing tracks augmented by videos on big-screen display, the dance club was part of a mix of a lively mix of entertainment on the 400 block of West Fourth Street in downtown Winston-Salem for the past couple years. Status shared the block with the live music venue Bull’s Tavern, a drinking establishment called Recreation Billiards and an outdoor corner spot held down by a small group of buskers. The dance club also shared a building with Community Arts Café, a venue for traditional acoustic music, poetry and comedy, along with the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.

The administrator of Status’ Facebook page indicated that the dance club’s landlord forced the business out at the chamber’s behest.

Charles Womack, Status’ owner, declined to comment on the dance club’s closing. It’s not clear whether he was the author of a bitter stream of accusations directed at the chamber from the club’s Facebook page.

“It’s kind of a sore subject,” he said.

[Disclosure: The editorial department at Triad City Beat, including Editor in Chief Brian Clarey, Senior Editor Jordan Green and Associate Editor Eric Ginsburg, was formerly employed by Womack at Yes Weekly. Womack also owns Ziggy’s music club in Winston-Salem and Ziggy’s by the Sea in Wilmington.]

On the eve of Status’ closing, the administrator of the club’s Facebook page wrote, “Thank you Winston Salem Chamber for forcing Status to close.” The administrator elaborated, “The chamber threatened to sue landlord if we were not kicked.”

In two different responses to questions from Facebook friends as to why the club was forced to close, the administrator wrote, “Landlord issues. Took heat from WS Chamber,” and “Cause we were too much trouble.”

At 11:12 p.m. on Jan. 9, the administrator urged supporters to email chamber President Gayle Anderson to express their displeasure. Posting Anderson’s email, the administrator wrote, “Email the root of the evil.”

The administrator of Status’ Facebook page also posted, “Winston-Salem Chamber doesn’t care about local business. Let’s start a new group that does.”

While acknowledging that she has been the target of an email campaign by Status, Anderson said the chamber has made no complaints of any kind against the dance club. She said she has no idea why the club is leveling accusations at the chamber.

The building that the chamber shares with the Community Arts Café and — until Jan. 10 — with Status is owned by Mercantile Plaza, a limited liability corporation owned in turn by Hank Perkins, Chadwick Davis and Suzanne Davis. The three partners do business through East Coast Capital, which also employs Drew Gerstmyer.

Perkins and Gerstmyer have played an active role in developing the Downtown Entertainment District at the north end of Trade Street. Perkins owns the District Roof Top Bar, and Perkins and Gerstmyer together own the property where Ziggy’s is located. As the business owner of Ziggy’s, Womack leases from Perkins and Gerstmyer.

Anderson said she had understood that Status would be leaving when its lease was up this summer, and was as surprised as anyone to learn that it was closing six months early. She said Gerstmyer recently informed the chamber’s office manager that the club would be leaving sooner rather than later. Gerstmyer declined to comment for this story.

Anderson said other than some broken glass in the parking lot, which she can’t definitively attribute to Status, and occasional noise during the day, the chamber hasn’t had any problem with the club.

“There were a couple instances of noise during the day,” she said. “We’d just call the landlord and say, ‘We’re having a board meeting, and the board members need to hear themselves talk.’ And they took care of it.”

The chamber’s tenancy predates Status, although the Community Arts Café has been there longer than either of its neighbors. The chamber moved to its current location from down the street in December 2012. Anderson said the chamber signed a 10-year lease that stipulated that other tenants would not have live performances in the building. The purpose of the stipulation, she said, was to prevent a strip club opening downstairs, citing the aggravation that the Benton Convention Center has endured from Winker’s across Cherry Street.

“We didn’t want pole dancing in the windows,” she said, while acknowledging that the entertainment provided by DJs at Status would not fit the definition of live performance. Ironically, the genteel old-time music and spoken word at the Community Arts Café is more likely to run afoul of the terms of the chamber’s lease as a matter of technicality.

Anderson said the chamber has happily allowed the police to review footage from its security cameras to monitor overnight activity.

The police made a total of 25 service calls to Status over the 12 months preceding the club’s closing, including five arrests. The calls addressed issues ranging from fighting and disruptive behavior to a stolen cell phone. That tally does not include an arrest for open container, a citation for sleeping in public or a non-criminal service call to an office building, all of which occurred in the early afternoon.

In comparison, Bull’s Tavern and Recreation Billiards had 15 and 14 police calls for service respectively.

“We’ve never made a complaint about noise at night because we’re not here at night,” Anderson said. “I’ve never met them. I’m 65 years old. I’ve never been in their club.”