For the first time in years, Regency Mall's all-but-empty corridors will reverberate with life.
On New Year's Eve, a loose association of local bars and nightclubs plan to take over the mall as the hosts of a party to ring in the New Year.
Timothy Pirtle, owner of the Honky Tonk, is organizing the event because New Year's Eve falls on a Sunday and local bars will be closed.
"Normally, every club in town would have a little party for their own clientele, and that would be it. This year, it falls on a Sunday so we'd have no New Year's," he said. "Now, everybody is going to find a party somewhere. They'll go to Atlanta or Columbia if they have to. My feeling is why, as the second-largest city in the state, should we have to give our money to someone else?"
Bars will be closed because Sunday liquor licenses are restricted to businesses that receive at least 50 percent of their profits from a source other than alcohol sales, such as restaurants and hotels.
The party will be divided into four separate sections. At one end, near the former Belk store, a DJ will spin Top 40 dance tracks. Farther along, a stage will be set up where local alternative rock bands will play. At the center of the mall, a country and Southern rock stage is planned, and at the other end of the mall, where Montgomery Ward now sits, another DJ will spin contemporary rock. Mr. Pirtle said that because of the format of the party, he feels Regency Mall is the perfect venue.
"At first, I didn't think much of it," he admitted. "I mean, who wants to go to Regency Mall? But it turns out everything is there to make this happen. It's safe from weather, it has ample parking, a lot of space and nobody will be disturbed."
Food will be available at the party, but there will be no alcohol sales. However, because the event is considered a private party, attendees will be able to bring their own drinks.
Mr. Pirtle said the biggest hurdle he had to overcome was convincing people that the party was more than an excuse to make money.
"The biggest challenge is the court of public opinion," he said. "I know there are a lot of people who say this is Tim Pirtle at the Honky Tonk and the Honky Tonk just wants to throw a big party to make a whole lot of money. That's fallacy No. 1. It's true that if we get a good crowd we could make decent money, but this is going to cost a lot, too."
Mr. Pirtle said that some businesses were initially reluctant to participate in the event, fearing that his intentions were not exactly pure.
"Trying to convince people that I wanted each club to participate at an equal level was tough," he admitted. "They really thought there were ulterior motives. But now people are beginning to see what I want to happen."
Other clubs participating include Kokopelli's, Coconuts, Time Piecez, Tommy's Place, the Fishbowl Lounge and Goodfella's.
Mr. Pirtle said that beyond providing a business opportunity for participating clubs and bars, he hopes the event also fosters a sense of community in the local hospitality industry.
"Augusta has never really been a unified city," he said. "But I want people to see what can happen if we concentrate our ideas and efforts and pull together instead of pull apart. I think that if this comes together like I think it will, it will be the talk of the town, maybe the state, because we will have done this as a unit."
What: A Happy New Year For All, presented by the Augusta/Richmond County hospitality industry
When: 7 p.m. until, Sunday
Where: Regency Mall
Admission: $25. Tickets are available at the Honky Tonk, Kokopelli's, Goodfella's, Tommy's Place and the Fishbowl Lounge.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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