Each year around the holidays, for as long as some can remember, the Double Door Inn celebrated its anniversary. But this year – for the first time in 43 years – there’s no Double Door to celebrate. At least, not in the sense of a physical building.
Today, when you drive by the block of Charlottetown Avenue that once held a small strip mall of ethnic restaurants and an old white house-turned-legendary blues club, there’s a fenced construction site enclosing a flattened lot. But the hole is metaphorical for many who frequented and played the fabled blues club.
“I drove by there for the first time the other day,” says Jay Ahuja, who co-produced a documentary about the venue. “I’d intentionally not driven by.”
Yet despite its absence, the people who populated, played and worked there are still around. On Sunday, they’ll gather at Neighborhood Theatre to recognize its anniversary with a Double Door reunion. The show – which includes a screening of Ahuja’s newly reedited documentary, “Live from the Double Door Inn,” with bonus footage and a more-in-depth interview with owner Nick Karres – reunites three bands that called the club home: Crisis, the Stragglers and the Lenny Federal Band.
The Double Door closed in January after more than 40 years, including countless shows and accounts of the nights when Stevie Ray Vaughan or Eric Clapton took the stage. The property is being redeveloped by Central Piedmont Community College.
Sunday’s show not only commemorates the club on the same week it would’ve celebrated its 44th year, but all proceeds will go to the Double DoorInn Employee Foundation, which Karres set up to help his staff once the venue closed.
“Nick always took care of his employees,” Ahuja says. For instance, long-term staff had health insurance, which is practically unheard of in the music industry, especially at that level. His appreciation for the staff is part of what Ahuja included in the bonus footage.
While its absence is certainly felt, the Double Door’s history is well-documented in print and now on film.
“It’s more than just a local bar. It was a linchpin for the national and regional music scene,” says writer and photographer Daniel Coston, who co-wrote “Charlotte’s Home of the Blues: 40 Years of the Double Door Inn” with Debby Wallace. “It’s been recognized as the oldest blues venue this side of the Mississippi. It’s literally one of the oldest venues in the country, and the oldest with the same owner through its 43 years.”
(The blues is still alive and well in Charlotte, though. The Monday Night Allstars, a fixture at the club, is down Elizabeth Avenue at the Visulite Theatre on Mondays. Ahuja also mentions The Rabbit Hole, Neighborhood Theatre and The Comet Grill as blues supporters.)
Folks can catch up with Karres and some of the former staff at Sunday’s show, which Ahuja and Coston helped organized with MaxxMusic’s Gregg McCraw and Criss’ Randy Franklin, who recorded a song in tribute of the venue.
“You can go elsewhere. There will be new things down the road, but it will never quite be the same,” Coston says. “(We’ve lost) more than a building, but something that represented who we are as Charlotteans and Charlotte musicians.”
Double Door Inn Anniversary Reunion Party
When: 7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St.
Details: 704-942-7997; www.neighborhoodtheatre.com.