3 to Watch: Entrepreneurs Who Are Improving Charlotte’s Social Scene

By Angela Lindsay

In a city with seeming multiples of every type of venue when it comes to socializing—bars, clubs, lounges, etc.—there are at least three entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity to improve upon that scene by going their own ways. That has lead to several unique new options for how Charlotteans can spend their downtime.

The Brew Doctor

Tabu Terrell

Tucked away in an inconspicuous industrial complex in south Charlotte is a brewery with an owner who is just as unassuming. Former Carolinas Healthcare System board-certified emergency medicine physician Tabu Terrell, 45, first learned the art of home brewing while in residency training in Indianapolis, after a program director suggested picking up an indoor hobby during the winter months of his intern year.

The Champaign, Illinois, native opened Three Spirits Brewery in November 2015 and became Charlotte’s first Black brewery owner amidst a sea of white local craft beer businesses. The Three Spirits name is a take on Terrell’s favorite holiday movie, “A Christmas Carol,” based on the Charles Dickens novel. He says he was at a point in his medical career where it was not bringing him as much joy as it used to, and he was becoming an unlikable character, like Ebenezer Scrooge. He realized that he and his wife, also an emergency medicine physician, were missing out on quality time raising their children. Then, an alarming event quickened the course.

“I had an unexpected illness that landed me in the ICU,” he says. “That changed my priorities pretty quickly. With the support of my wife, the post-retirement career became a right-now option. I got to be a stay-at-home dad while I tried to get the brewery off of the ground, and since it has opened, she [his wife] has been able to alter her career path slightly and work from home.”

Terrell describes the atmosphere at Three Spirits as “chill, laid back, welcoming and warm.” Its décor is reflective of an English pub. His award-winning beers are served in the 2,500-square-foot taproom, while the beer is made in a 9,000-square-foot brew house.

While he says many people think that breweries have only white guys with big beards, the Three Spirits crowd is very diverse. He has hosted parties for African Americans, alternative lifestyle groups and bridal showers. His goal, he says, is “to be a community space where everyone feels welcome and to change the perception of what it means to go to a microbrewery and who you will see.”

The Game Changer

Feeling unfulfilled by corporate America, High Point native Markus Hunter, 38, decided it

Markus Hunter

was time for a change. That decision became what is now commonly referred to as an “adult playground.” Recess Charlotte, a 3,800-square-foot venue, is located in the Belmont community and provides an escape into a grown person’s entertainment wonderland.

“Recess, I feel, is whatever the customer wants it to be—whether it’s a bar hangout or a place to grab food, network and mingle,” explains Hunter, its owner/general manager.

His own childhood of playing interactive, physical games led to the concept of the venue, which includes swings, shuffleboard, tetherball, cornhole, giant Jenga, giant Connect Four, air hockey, foosball and several big-screen TVs. The dog-friendly venue can hold upward of 200 patrons. Its outdoor patio area offers shareable appetizer plates as well as “creative and fun drinks.”

Hunter proudly welcomes the diverse crowd Recess Charlotte draws, and says he chose the nearby Plaza Midwood area for that very reason. His customers appreciate the venue’s creativity and uniqueness, and he is very receptive to change, based on their desires.

Although Recess Charlotte is Hunter’s first venture, having just opened in August of 2017, he is not counting out the possibility of other opportunities in a year or two. But for now, he is focused on the current one:.

“I just want to make this (location) as sufficient and comfortable and as great of a spot as I can make it right now, and then we can look at maybe expanding from there.”

The Businessman

Clarence Boston

Clarence Boston is building an empire. The Reidsville native, 40, is already the owner of seven businesses in the region, including a mortuary service, crematorium, cemetery, burial vault manufacturing service and Secret Society Cigar Bar and Lounge. It is his Fire House Bar & Lounge that has quickly become one of the go-to spots for young professionals.

Located on the site of a former crematorium, Fire House is a bottle-service lounge specializing in an assortment of exotic hookah, including pineapple fruit head hookah (using the rind of the fruit as the hookah bowl), which Boston say no other venue in Charlotte is offering.

The Fire House name is derived from a food truck he purchased, which used to be a fire truck and operates outside the lounge.

The interior of Fire House seats a little more than 100 people within roughly 1,900 square feet with swings hanging from the ceiling by the bar. While Charlotte has no shortage of bars and lounges, Boston had a particular reason for wanting to add his concept to the mix.

“I got tired of going places where they didn’t really respect the Black dollar,” he explains.

Looking to further capitalize on Fire House’s success, Boston is considering opening a pool bar called Wet next summer.