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5th Street Live Brings Back Alive After Five Vibes

Remembering what Uptown happy hour used to look like

a photo of 5th st live, a happy hour event held in Uptown, Charlotte
5th Street Live in Uptown (Photo by Aerin Spruill)

When I received an invite to check out 5th Street Live, the new Thursday happy hour hotspot, I was hesitant to accept. 

After witnessing the beautiful chaos of Uptown’s coveted weekly “networking” event known as Alive After 5 (aka AA5) in the 2010s, did I want to behold yet another botched stab at reincarnation? Because sorry, not sorry, the kid-friendly, PGA-infused SouthPark After 5 sequel could never. 

The difference is that 5th Street Live isn’t trying to recreate, it’s trying to elevate. 

If you’re new to the Queen City, you may not know that a decade ago, the EpiCentre was a bustling hub for drunken shenanigans, mediocre (but nostalgic) eats, and poor decisions in the heart of Uptown. 

Now an empty shell of its former self — though in the midst of an attempted renovation and rebranding as Queen City Quarter — only the echoes of faded facades hint at its once vibrant past. But on Thursdays, Charlotteans used to show up and show out for AA5.

Take a walk with me down memory lane. It’s Thursday, circa 2014. My PIC and I are counting down to the 40th hour when we could escape our miz, entry-level jobs and dive into the regularly scheduled program: pregaming for AA5 at Rooftop 210.

“Girl dinner” of charcuterie for sustenance. Curated iTunes playlists to set the mood to maneater. Perfectly-timed shots of Fireball to chase the inhibitions. Full-face beats complete with top and bottom eyeliner. And complementary fits paired with leather jackets and heels. 

“The cabs’a hea!” someone would yell, a la Jersey Shore, as we’d crawl into an Uber en route to the EpiCentre.

Cigar smoke from the first-floor lounge playfully danced around our plumes of perfume as we looked up weighing the plethora of options across the multi-level venue. Walkways were filled with miniskirts and 4-inch heels waiting to get into club favorites, Suite and Bubble. 

The buzz of inebriates and live music from the likes of Tin Roof spilled into the district center, delivering the perfect “red carpet” theme song for ascending the escalator. What a time to be alive.

a picture of people enjoying live music from 5th St Live
People enjoying live music at 5th Street Live (Photo by Aerin Spruill)

Over 10 years later, I donned my frozen-in-time, all-black fit of choice and braved the hellish summer evening heat to check out 5th Street Live. As a seasoned vet in the nightlife game, I became both intrigued and anxious as I experienced the déjà vu of the summer solstice at AA5 before its demise.

Bathed in an orange sunset, the Truist Center tower loomed over the plaza filled with a hodgepodge of Charlotteans mingling and milling about. The live music brought to us by Southside Watt filled the air for blocks, convincing passersby to “pop in for a quick one.”  

Back in the day, I would’ve been racing to the crowded bar to get an RBV. But gone are the days of playing with the Raging Bull, and to my surprise, getting a bevy was a breeze. With seven satellite bars ready to wet your whistle, there’s plenty of time and space for genuine networking opps or people-watching. 

As the sun began to set, I snagged a seat and figurative popcorn anxiously waiting for the controlled chaos of daylight to devolve into sundown debauchery. *Enter DJ Yona* 

Just the seasoning we needed to usher in the boozy boogie. “The same, but different,” I thought to myself as I felt the electric energy reminiscent of AA5 Thursdays tickle my arm hairs dancing to the beat.  

At 9:37 pm, as if on cue, a lush in a hot-pink tennis skirt with major main character energy bent over to twerk front and center. 

I resisted the urge to press record the moment she gave into her foolish pursuits of playfully exposing her Spanx to smack her booty. Who was I to interrupt the spirit of Tyla’s “Water” moving through her? After all, this was the late-night AA5 vibe I came for. 

There will never be another AA5 as we knew it, but we knew that as it started to fizzle out well before its finale in 2019. 

While 5th Street Live may be building on a coveted legacy, it isn’t trying to replicate the past. It represents a promising example of the innovation Uptown needs to rejuvenate a happy hour scene that’s been stale as hell for the past few years. 

If you’re craving a Thirsty Thursday in Uptown with a dash of nostalgia, come alive at 5th Street Live, held every Thursday night at Truist Center Plaza from 5-10 p.m. You gotta be 21 and up, sorry kiddos! 

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