To take a snapshot of Plaza Midwood in its current state is to capture a quickly vanishing memory. COVID-19 has led to the long-term closure of neighborhood favorites like Snug Harbor, while new development has caused decades-old establishments like Elizabeth Billiards to shut their doors for good, unsure of when and where they can find a new start.
Other popular nearby spots such as Hattie’s Tap and Tavern were made to close for more than six months due to COVID-19, even after restaurants were allowed to open per Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan, which excluded private bars. In response, Hattie’s owner Jackie DeLoach posted on Facebook, “How the hell do they expect us to make money and pay the damn light bill with zero income for that long?” echoing the sentiments of other struggling small-bar owners such as Jamie Starks of Tommy’s Pub in east Charlotte.
In an effort to help Charlotte’s service industry get back on its feet while the pandemic continues to plague neighborhood watering holes, a group of friends and local supporters have released the Men of Midwood(ish) 2021 Calendar, a good-humored fundraising project that will benefit 13 participating bars in Plaza Midwood and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Released in December, the calendar features tongue-in-cheek, sometimes faux-risqué photos of bartenders from each of the participating bars:
- Elizabeth Billiards
- Midwood Country Club
- Thirsty Beaver Saloon
- Skylark Social Club
- Snug Harbor
- Hattie’s Tap and Tavern
- Thomas Street Tavern
- Tommy’s Pub
- Abari Game Bar
- The Workman’s Friend
- The Lafayette
- Smokey Joe’s Cafe
For Geneiva McNeale, who led the production of the calendar, the idea wasn’t hard to come by once she sat down with a couple of friends over drinks this summer to brainstorm different ways to support Charlotte’s struggling local bars.
McNeale had played a key role in creating The Men of The Thirsty Beaver calendar in 2016 as a way to pay homage to the staple saloon of the neighborhood — its bartenders and its regulars — at a time when it was struggling through the crushing weight of surrounding development and the obstructive construction projects that came along with it. McNeale teamed with photographer Chris Edwards and designer Molly Poe to put together The Men of The Thirsty Beaver, and it ended up raising $17,000 for Be The Match, a national marrow-donor program that had worked with the bar in the past.
This year, however, the charities are the bars themselves, as all proceeds from the calendar will be distributed evenly among the participating bars and their staff. In selecting which bars would be included, McNeale and her team — she was joined again by Edwards and Poe — prioritized spots that struggled the most with meeting protocols put in place by the phased reopening plan.
Two of the participating bars, Abari Game Bar and Elizabeth Billiards, have already closed down their locations and are currently looking for new spaces. Smokey Joe’s Café hasn’t been opened since March. The team also included The Lafayette, a bar that longtime Midwood Country Club and Elizabeth Billiards manager Dean Baskin opened in Shelby in 2019.
The Men of Midwood(ish) calendar is a lighthearted response to a troubling year for so many locally-owned bars and restaurants in Charlotte. This is their way of asking for community support to help get them back on their feet as they struggle to stay afloat, while also capturing a moment in time.
“With large tracts of land recently purchased by developers and condos and offices moving in every day, we thought it might be worth taking a snapshot of the [Plaza Midwood] as it is before it changes forever,” McNeale wrote in a press release. “The calendar captures all the personality and grit that is Plaza Midwood today. We tried to feature as many of our favorite bars and bartenders as possible in our 13-month homage.”
There’s no way of knowing what 2021 has in store for Plaza Midwood and the rest of the Queen City, but as we move into the new year, neighborhood advocates now have a new way to support their local favorites, keep their dates straight and get a good laugh while doing it. Order a copy online or pick one up at any of the featured bars that are open, or at participating retail locations such as Green with Envy, Common Market and The Culture Shop.
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