Amid an announcement of new management, the owners of one South End bar maintain that it is still Black-owned and they have big plans going into the new year.
In a since-deleted Instagram post, 1501 South Mint announced that they would be “under new management” soon, leaving many to question whether the restaurant had been sold.
Clyde Thomas, the owner, wants to clear up any confusion.
“We have the same owner from when we started. Nothing on the ownership level has changed,” he told QCity Metro. “We’re still black-owned and we’re still the same couple of people that have been in here fighting through the pandemic and trying to put this thing together.”
Thomas and his partners, Lezlie Briggs and Zoey Prince, opened 1501 South Mint in Dec. 2019. The trio managed the day-to-day operations through the pandemic and saw their business become what is now a local go-to spot in the historically Black Wilmore community.
None of the ownership is stepping down, Thomas said, but a new management team is being hired to expand the bar’s live entertainment alongside the speakeasy-style bar and food lounge.
In an interview with QCity Metro, Thomas talks about the original post announcing the changes, plans of expansion and what patrons can expect this year.
Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
An announcement was made in 2022 that there was new management. Many people were concerned whether or not the business was still going to be Black-owned. Were you aware of the public concerns?
Clyde Thomas: Yes, I felt it. Business slowed down for a period of time because people assumed that we had been sold and weren’t Black-owned anymore.
When I signed my 10-year lease in 2019, there was a deal on the table that the building could potentially be sold and our lease would be bought out.
In May 2022, Axios released a story about an apartment complex that was going to be built on this property. The deal never [went] through, but when I made the announcement of new management, people thought we had been sold, referencing that story.
People were calling, emailing and even stopping by to ask if we were still Black-owned. We have not been sold and we’re still Black-owned.
What led to the need to hire new management?
CT: When we first opened up during the pandemic, we didn’t have a lot of staff. We were managing everything ourselves.
Now, the world has opened back up. We want to grow and pivot in a new direction with live entertainment. I know nothing about engineering, connecting with promoters and doing all this stuff with music, so we have to bring in the professionals and get out of the way.
That team will solely focus on that and not have to worry about the other side of business like the bar. We’re still in the hiring process.
What will this new live entertainment venture look like at 1501 South Mint?
CT: The goal is to host our first live entertainment show in April. I want to connect with promoters in the city to get those big-named comedians and popular artists to perform at our outdoor sound stage.
There are plans to add two recording studios inside the building next door to give people that social space to turn up on the weekends and a place for an artist to perform too.
I plan to bring a crowd by hosting day parties before the concert and after parties right after.
How will you compete with other live entertainment venues?
CT: I look at venues like Fillmore, Spectrum Center, Comedy Zone and I don’t wanna be their competition. I just want to fit in. They got their own thing going and I’ve been watching them. The whole process is a wonderful business machine. We have 200,000 members, I just want to provide them and others a different experience.
How many people could fit in this space at one time?
CT: At least 3,000 people can fit at 1501.
You’ve been able to stay open throughout the pandemic. A number of restaurants and businesses have had to shut down due to shortages and Covid-related issues. Are you dealing with similar issues that cause concern for closing?
CT: We endured through the pandemic and don’t have any plans or concerns of shutting down. Business fluctuates based on seasons, and our big seasons are during the warmer months when we can let people outside.
Staffing is good for us because we downgrade our staff during the colder months and rehire in the spring.
Right now, we have about 10-12 workers, mostly bartenders. In the spring-summer, we could have up to 60 on staff.
What are some signature events you plan to continue this year?
CT: I look forward to continuing our Conversations Sundays and Food Truck Fridays.
What new events do you plan to host this year?
CT. We got Future and T.I. coming to Charlotte in a few weeks, so we plan to host something when they come to town. Our main focus is to open up this live entertainment venue. I do have plans to open up two new expansion spots.
One will be in the West End later this year.