Aerin It OutColumnsNightlife

Novelty House Lives up to the Long Wait

Back in time, post pandemic social scene, Optimist Hall
Aerin Spruill

On May 14, 2018, the last night that Connolly’s patio would be open, I snapped a photo of my boyfriend and a friend, the last men standing in protest and mourning. 

When we left, I remember disappointedly reflecting on the many memories I’d made with my boyfriend on the patio of “that Irish bar Uptown,” the one I never even liked until I met him. Little did I know, it wasn’t goodbye, it was only “See you later.”

A little over three years passed and we met again. Though Connolly’s on 5th is still right there where it’s always been (on 5th), where the upstairs patio once stood is now home to the five-floor Binaco Tower, topped by Novelty House, a rooftop cocktail bar, with the exclusive Havana Smoke and Reserve lounge on the floor below. That’s what we call leveling up! 

Months before opening, I listened as friends poured their hearts and energy into Novelty House, all the while navigating the ups and downs of construction, permits and a pandemic — which, of course, is a wild understatement as you can imagine — not knowing when the doors would finally open on the new patio. 

That’s why I made it my priority to be one of the first people in line to show my support for all of the hard work that went into it and my love for the humans behind the project on the first official opening day: Aug. 26, 2021. 

If I’m being honest, sweats and T-shirts have become my most familiar bedfellows, especially during the more stringent quarantine era. So I’ll be the first to say that, while I’ve got mad love for the peeps who work there, I had no intention of being a frequent patron. 

After all, y’all know by now, convincing me to leave what I call my “living room,” aka the patio of my favorite watering hole, is rarely done without dragging me kicking and screaming. 

But after a single night of getting gussied up with the girls, Novelty House had me at hello.

Sure, you may see pics of the floral decor, the neon “WISH YOU WERE HERE” sign, and the built-in mirror ring light in the bathroom and think “chintzy” or “so what?” 

But the truth is, the pioneers behind these two new nightlife destinations left no stones unturned when it came to cultivating an experience down to the most minute details. As a result, they’ve created a “novel” 5th Street destination that offers an elevated atmosphere unlike any other on the block. 

On the fourth floor, you’ll find Havana, a sexy cigar lounge where you can purchase cigars and, for those with the distinguished affinity for a fairly regular social club vibe, private lockers and membership packages. 

I’ve never been a fan of cigars myself, but on a cool night, I can certainly see myself on my Jessica Rabbit, whistling a different tune. Plus, it’s so well-ventilated that even if you’re not partaking in a puff, you can still enjoy the space without feeling stifled by clouds of smoke. 

On the fifth floor is the picturesque Novelty House rooftop patio. If you’re queasy over heights like me, I’d suggest grabbing a seat at the bar and getting cozy with a bartender before it gets slammed. 

Once that fall breeze starts to slap, it’ll be difficult to convince yourself you don’t need another $15 cocktail, so prepare your coins. 

But that’s just the point. This space was designed with the hope that patrons wouldn’t want to or need to leave. And once the restaurant opens downstairs, finding a reason to go elsewhere will prove quite challenging. 

But in the meantime, you can tickle your tastebuds with free brunch on Saturdays. If it’s free … it’s for me.  

The icing on the cake for this Black gal in Charlotte? The spot is run by Black and brown folks!

As a nightlife stalker in the Queen City since 2012, there’s something incredibly gratifying about supporting a successful business when the faces behind it look like my own. 

It feels like something all of “us” should be proud of, as if “we” had anything at all to do with it other than showing up for a seat at the table! 

It’s true, though, and that alone conjures a grin that makes both of my cheeks hurt. Just picture a loud, proud mama, arm fat jiggling, belly bouncing, running and screaming, “That’s my baby!” in the stands of a middle school basketball game. That’s me fangirling. 

And yes, honey, they’ve already made a splash in the news of epic proportions thanks to some dress code requirements that some folks aren’t feeling. While the tea is hot, I urge you to sip it for yourself and see how it tastes. But don’t end up in the “society papers,” dress to impress.

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