News & Opinion

Queen City Nerve’s Most-Read Stories of 2023

What Charlotte cared about most this year from the Nerve

It’s that time of year in which we like to reflect a bit by compiling our most-read stories, a way to look back on what our readers found to be most compelling and engaged with more than other content. 

This year’s selection of stories ranges from topics like mistreatment, misinformation and bigotry to more wonky articles and op-eds on local politics, development and crime. Oh, and then there was the surprisingly popular case of a concertgoer’s flatulence at a John Mellencamp concert. Sometimes you just don’t know what’s going to hit. 


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Shania Twain Proves She’s Still the One in Charlotte

by Jeff Hahne

Imagine being one of the biggest pop-country singers in the world. You go through a divorce. Your voice gets wrecked by Lyme disease and COVID, the latter of which also cancels a planned Vegas residency. There are various other hardships and hurdles along the way, as well.

Shania Twain performs onstage with a loose-fitting pink shirt and a yellow bottom.
Shania Twain performs at PNC Music Pavilion on June 28, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

While your voice isn’t quite what it used to be, you love performing and you love your fans, so you want to give everything you’ve got. So you hit the road and aim to put on a show that makes your fans happy.  And yet, in this age of social media derision, critics continue to tear you down for vocal weakness and allegedly lip-synching on tour.

Here we have Shania Twain’s story in a nutshell, and it was perhaps it was that ongoing debate that got so many folks engaged in Jeff Hahne’s review of Twain’s June show at PNC Music Pavilion, which he called “a solid performance from start to finish.” 

Charlotte Nude Yoga Embraces Naturism at Big Love Yoga Barn

by Annie Keough

In a cover story that got a few second looks, Queen City Nerve staff writer Annie Keough embarked on a journey to Big Love Yoga Barn for her first Charlotte Nude Yoga (CNY) class, having to shed her own inhibitions and anxieties around the thought of being naked around strangers.

Particpants at Charlotte Nude Yoga (Photo by Huck Broyle).

When CNY owner Huck Broyles had the opportunity to visit nude beaches during a study abroad trip to Barcelona, his views on nudism changed. “[The experience] brought to my attention how much clothes change our perception of other people,” he said. “Clothing, in our society, is used to delineate people.”

After returning to the States, Broyles sought to join a naturist group and finally found one in 2018. The only problem was — the group never met. Broyles joined Meetup organizer Brian Garcia and another man named Jonathan Organ to form the Charlotte Young Naturists Association. Broyles began organizing a monthly event, and CNY found a home at the Big Love Yoga Barn. 

5 Takeaways From John Mellencamp at Ovens Auditorium

by Jeff Hahne

At 71 years old, John Mellencamp hit Ovens Auditorium in February as part of his Live and In Person Tour. After 30 minutes of clips from mid-20th century movies, he finally hit the stage and proved why he’s still got it. 

It was Jeff’s commentary in the final of his five takeaways that got so many people sharing this article, though. But those who denied it must have supplied it.  

Catawba Brewing Permanently Closes Charlotte Taproom, No Notice to Employees

by Justin LaFrancois

Catawba Brewing Company employees were reportedly turned away from work on Monday, Aug. 14 before a sign was placed on the door stating the taproom would be permanently closed. “We are permanently closed. Thank you for the years of support. YOU are the best part of US,” the sign read in part.

Beer With Me CLT announced the closure in a Facebook post, stating the same fate for the brewery’s Wilmington location. “News came this morning that Catawba Brewing Charlotte location closed permanently without any warning to any staff. Apparently this also happened this past week at the Wilmington location and possibly South Slope in Asheville,” the post read.

Catawba Brewing was originally owned by the Pyatt family before the sale to Made By The Water in 2021. Operations have slowly phased out over the years since the acquisition, with concerns of closure appearing before the latest announcement.

Freedom House Church Leader Heads Harassment Campaigns, Spreads Misinformation

by Justin LaFrancois

In an alarming series of events, Penny Maxwell of Freedom House Church in CLT, sparked a wave of controversy — accused of spreading misinformation and targeting LGBTQ+ individuals and local businesses. With her far-reaching influence, questions arose: Who is Penny Maxwell, and what’s happening at this evangelical institution?

A view of Freedom House Church from Griffith Street in South End
Freedom House Church’s South End campus on Griffith Street. (Photo by Justin LaFrancois)

Maxwell and her husband Troy founded FHC in 2002, expanding over time to multiple locations in the area and thousands of weekly attendees. Leadership is accused of pushing right-wing ideologies, even creating a “biblically-based environment” at their Freedom Academy, where children get “an education without the nonsense of woke ideaologies [sic] that directly go against Biblical principles.”

Recently, Maxwell and other right-wing groups targeted a local business, Free Will Craft + Vine, during a drag brunch. The event turned ugly, with days of threats and harassment toward the owner and staff. Deeper inquiry revealed a concerning pattern at FHC, with ties to political figures like N.C. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.

OPINION: Tipsy Pickle Is a Bad Direction for Camp North End

by Liz Logan

In this op-ed, Nerve contributor Liz Logan voiced her concern with what the announcement of a huge sports bar and pickleball facility planned for Camp North End means for the future of what’s become a hub for community and culture. 

A very big Tipsy Pickle facility in the foreground with the Charlotte skyline in the background
A rendering of the Tipsy Pickle facility that’s set to open at Camp North End in 2024.

“On the most basic level, this feels out of touch, another attempt from Charlotte business owners and out-of-town investors to gobble up profits Hungry Hungry Hippo-style, with a pervasive inability to read the room,” she wrote. “I have no personal qualms with the sport. I have no problem with small business owners growing their portfolios or profiting. That is, of course, a primary objective of business ownership. 

“A big part of the issue, though, with opening a place called Tipsy Pickle in a campus that claims to be “an inclusive, supportive creative community that allows for a constant flow of ideas and collaboration” is that the former does not lend itself to the latter.” 

Ballantyne Business Owner Indicted for COVID-19 Fraud

by Justin LaFrancois

In August 2022, local entrepreneur James Seidel was indicted by a grand jury on 16 counts of wire fraud and one count of theft of government property for alleged misuse of COVID-19-related relief funds from the federal government, according to court documents.

Outside view of the Carolina Fish Market in Ballantyne - Charlotte
Jim Seidel owned Carolina Fish Market (previously called Carolina Meat & Fish Co.) in Ballantyne.

The funds were taken out while Seidel was owner of Carolina Fish Market in Ballantyne (previously called Carolina Meat & Fish Co.). He claims to have sold the business since, though that hasn’t been confirmed. 

In July, Seidel pleaded guilty to making false statements to the US government, a felony. In an agreement with prosecutors, Seidel may be sentenced to probation and fines for the false statements. If, for some reason, he doesn’t comply with the terms of the agreement he faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine, according to court docs.

Mom Demands Charter School Address Son’s Special Needs Struggles

by Ryan Pitkin

A Huntersville mom called on Lake Norman Charter Elementary School (LNCES) to fire a teacher who allegedly shamed her son for behavior due to his mental health conditions, and the school administrators whom she says didn’t act on her complaints for over a year.

A headshot of Danielle Farmer
Danielle Farmer (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Danielle Farmer’s son, then 8 years old, had been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety and sensory processing disorder when she claims a teacher at (LNCES) repeatedly punished and embarrassed him for behaviors that are known symptoms of his conditions. Her son’s therapist told the school the child had been experiencing ideations of self-harm due to his treatment at the school and asked administrators to take action.

The charter school has denied any wrongdoing in the boy’s case and instead blamed Farmer for “egregiously inappropriate and disruptive conduct” over the past school year that led to her being banned from campus.

OPINION: Mecklenburg County Democrats Owe Cheri Beasley an Apology

by Jennifer De La Jara

Following last year’s shameful showing in the November elections, Jennifer De La Jara suggested that local Democrats reflect on some troubling stats and ask what they can do to engage folks before organizing precincts and electing leadership in the months to follow. 

“If you spend time talking to boots-on-the-ground community workers, you will hear story after story of how our local residents are suffering,” she wrote. “Housing and food insecurity run rampant. Access to mental-health services and quality school facilities continue to run at deficits.

“But our local Democratic leaders too often seem content with fighting each other instead of fighting for their constituents — squabbling over mundane topics like electing precinct chairs or Robert’s Rules of Order, distracted from focusing on the two key roles of raising up a bench of quality candidates and getting out the vote.” 

Local Democrats Raise Questions About CMS Unity Slate

by Annie Keough

With 14 candidates running for three available seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education — the three who made up CMS Unity slate raised a lot of questions.

Carolina Forward, an NC-based nonpartisan, nonprofit policy organization, raised red flags early in October when they claimed the Unity slate candidates — Annette Albright, Claire Covington and Rev. Michael Johnson Jr. — were hiding their conservative backing.

Carolina Forward was the first group to report that all Unity candidates listed the same two Republican campaign treasurers, Joe Patton and Collin McMichael, in their candidacy filings, and all three have listed the same Raleigh PO box that was used by Republican Ted Budd’s Senate campaign. And that was only the beginning. 

Freedom House Church Threatens Queen City Nerve With Defamation Lawsuit

by Justin LaFrancois

Freedom House Church leaders Penny and Troy Maxwell threatened Queen City Nerve with a lawsuit, claiming defamation and libel for statements published in August in an article listed above about the church.

In a cease-and-desist letter delivered by Lance Edmonds of Fidelity Law Group dated Aug. 15, the Maxwells claimed the Nerve has “continually defamed their personal and professional reputation, as well as the reputation of Freedom House Church.[sic] causing damage,” adding that we “continually harassed [Freedom House Church], to the point of violating civil and criminal statutes,” among other allegations. 

The letter demanded that we publish a retraction in print and electronic format. The original article, however, did not contain any false statements of fact, and therefore Queen City Nerve refused all requests to retract any of our reporting on the church. 

Charlotte Bar Owners Speak Out About New Law’s Impact on Business

by Ryan Pitkin

Starting next year, bars in Mecklenburg County that serve any type of temperature-and-time-controlled food will be required to obtain a Food Service Establishment operating permit from Mecklenburg County Public Health.

Passed on Oct. 2, the new law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, but some bar owners in Charlotte say it will hurt them financially. Affected bars will now need a food permit to stay up to code, which results in owners having to spend thousands on equipment like commercial-grade fryers, refrigerators, grease traps and kitchen hoods.

“For these small businesses, it’s just one more cut that makes us bleed a little bit and makes it harder to run a profitable business,” said Paul Sires, co-owner of @starlighton22nd, one of a handful of bar owners we spoke to about the coming change. 

Pure Pizza Purchases Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Property on The Plaza

by Ryan Pitkin

Staff at Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Eatery in northeast Charlotte confirmed to Queen City Nerve in March that the property their establishment is located on had been sold to Juli Ghazi, owner of Pure Pizza, an organic farm-to-fork pizza restaurant located in Plaza Midwood.

An outside look at Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Eatery
Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Eatery (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

While an earlier version of our story stated that Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Eatery planned to close its doors due to this sale, we were later able to confirm that Ghazi was working on arrangements so that Finga Lickin’ could continue to operate from the property once she moved her flagship Pure Pizza location there. 

Since then, however, lease disputes between the two owners have found them in court, and it appears Finga Lickin’ will need to vacate the property when their lease ends in February 2024. 

5 Things to Know: Company Loses $100K After Truck Spills Cash

by Ryan Pitkin

A CMPD report in September confirmed that $100,000 went missing after an armored truck spilled boxes of money onto the street in north Charlotte.

One of the bins dropped by the GardaWorld armored truck. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Queen City Nerve arrived on the scene just a matter of minutes after an armored GardaWorld truck reportedly dropped three to four boxes apparently filled with cash onto Sunset Road near the I-77 interchange. A witness who came upon the scene before police arrived said that one of the boxes opened and bystanders flocked to the scene to grab cash.

The witness told Queen City Nerve they saw people running from the scene “hugging bundles of money” before police arrived.

The Causes and Effects of Losing Lesbian Bars

by Annie Keough

Dedicated spaces for queer women are getting harder to find, not just in Charlotte, but across the US, leaving the lesbian community wondering: Where do we go now?

Bethany McDonald stands across the street from Clutch and the Bank of America Stadium in Uptown Charlotte
Bethany McDonald used to co-own Hardigan’s Irish Pub, which is now Clutch. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Charlotte has only ever had three bars that have catered specifically to lesbian and queer women and lasted more than two years, none of which are still open today.

Queen City Nerve contributor Annie Keough spoke with members of the local LGTQ community about the importance of those spaces, why they’ve been disappearing and solutions to fill the void.

2023 Picks from our Editorial Staff

Because our favorites don’t always coincide with what everybody’s clicking. 

Ryan Pitkin 

Haylo Offers Closure, New Beginnings with Nipple and Areola Tattoos by Annie Keough
Knothole Foundation Builds a Field of Dreams in West Charlotte by Ryan Pitkin

A young Black girl with braids in her hair rounds third base with a large smile on her face, wearing a knothole Foundation t-shirt.
A child participates in a workshop hosted by the Knothole Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Knothole Foundation)

Justin LaFrancois

Freedom House Church Leader Makes Max Donation to Mark Robinson by Justin LaFrancois
Public School Strong Pushes Back on Movement to Undermine Public Education by Ryan Pitkin

Regan Shaw speaks into a microphone at a podium
Regan Shaw of Public School Strong speaks at a Union County Public Schools meeting on June 13, 2023. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Annie Keough 

Local Couple Launches Inclusive Pop-Up for Plus-Size Clientele by Rayne Antrim
Family of Mount Holly’s Ransom Hunter Fights to Preserve Legacy by Ryan Pitkin

An old photo of Ransom Hunter's house
A rare photo of Ransom Hunter, turning away from the camera beside his house in 1870. (Courtesy of Eric Wilson)

Rayne Antrim

Archive CLT Brings Black History Home to West Charlotte by Tyler Bunzey
Harmonic Tales from sayurblaires Tune Into Identity by Pat Moran

sayurblaires (Photo by Amber Kelly)

Pat Moran

Ricky Singh Balances a Life in Art and Education by Pat Moran
Snug Harbor Celebrates 16 Years in Plaza Midwood by Pat Moran

The drummer in a band that is all wearing masks stands on a chair that's being lifted by crowd members while playing a drum set that's also being lifted in the air by crowd members during a performance at Snug Harbor
Daikaiju performs at Snug Harbor in March 2023. (Photo by Jonathan Golian)

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