Kings of the Nightlife

Car service. VIP. Entourages. Beautiful women. Nightlife in Charlotte has arrived. And these five guys know it well. They enjoy the perks that many of us don't.

Here's what it's like through their eyes.

Interviews by Jarvis Holliday
Photographs by Chris Edwards

Dudley grew up on the West Coast then lived in Boston while playing college basketball. He loves the southern hospitality he's encountered during his first few months living here. (Chris Edwards)

Dudley grew up on the West Coast then lived in Boston while playing college basketball. He loves the southern hospitality he’s encountered during his first few months living here. (Chris Edwards)

Johnny Szuch

Owner of Deep Elm Records

I'm better known as Johnny Drama (the character from HBO's Entourage) because no one can pronounce my last name. But I don't look for drama—it finds me.

I'm from New York. I was working on Wall Street. I was tired of working eighteen hours a day. Or if I'm going to work that hard it's going to be for something I enjoy. So I decided to pursue my record label full time. A big part of our business is music licensing. We provide a lot of music to TV shows, national
commercials, movies, and video games.

I own a home on Lake Wylie. I wanted to be on the water when I moved here. But my house is up for sale now and I'll be moving downtown into one of the new condo buildings.

Where I go out depends on the day of the week. Starting on Monday, I usually head up to the University area and I'll go to the Flying Saucer. On Tuesdays, I usually hang out downtown at the Corner Pub. Wednesdays I like to hang out in the SouthPark area, maybe M5. Thursdays, I'll be downtown, start out at Alley Cat, then maybe go to Cans, and end up at HOM. Fridays, I like hanging out in Ballantyne, at Vesuvio and Villa Antonio. Saturday is the big night, where everybody seems to be dressed up, and HOM is the place to be. Sundays is Uptown Cabaret, for Service Industry Night, of course, so I can buy drinks for the people who've served me all week.

Charlotte is pretty exciting. People who say there is nothing to do in Charlotte and they hate it here, should just leave because they're crazy if they think that. There's so much to do in this area. I can't imagine a night being bored in this town.

Drew Carter

Carolina Panthers wide receiver

I live in a condo uptown. I moved there last year from SouthPark. It was nice, but as a young, single guy, uptown living seemed like the way to go. And I love it. Everything is right there in walking distance. I like Ruth's Chris and Capital Grille. Plus, my job is right around the corner, not even three blocks away.

I'm from Cleveland, which is a big city. When I first got here I thought it was going to be bigger than it was. But it's growing. I got to know a lot of people really quickly.

Sometimes people recognize me. But because I'm often wearing a helmet some of them don't really know what I look like. I'm a humble guy, really laid back, so I'm not the type who's like ‘hey look at me.'

When I go out, I usually have one or two people with me, but I don't really have an entourage. I'm usually with another single guy on the team or another friend of mine. We go to spots and just try to blend in.

If a woman approaches me and the first thing she mentions is football, it's sort of a turn off. I almost prefer that she doesn't even know I play a sport.

I'm not the type of guy who sends his wing man over. I think that's corny. If I send my wing man over to get the girl, then what am I supposed to do—sit back, posing, trying to look cool? If I want to talk to her, I'll go over and talk to her myself.

I like the Sunset Club. I love lounges. I've been to Loft 1523 a couple of times. I don't like to be in places that are too crowded. If I'm in Forum, I'll go upstairs to the VIP area or to the deck. M5 in SouthPark is a good place, too.

Sonny Gur

Co-owner of the Sunset Club

I've been in Charlotte seventeen years. I'm originally from Turkey. Mark Richardson and a bunch of guys started the Sunset Club ten years ago. Seven years ago, my brother and I became partners with them. Then we bought everybody out, so there's now four partners.

A lot of business people come here, a lot of bankers and CEOs. We get a lot of players from the Bobcats and Panthers.

I'm a Miami and New York type of guy, so when I say VIP I mean that you need to be treated right. Champagne service, limousine service, personal security if they need it. A lot of big names come in here. They can sit in VIP and not be bothered.

Working in the nightlife industry, I'm almost always here. But when I get a free minute, I'll go downtown, maybe hang out at Forum every once in a while. I like to eat. Some of my favorite restaurants are Bentley's on 27, The Palm, Ruth's Chris, Del Frisco. McIntosh's and Sullivan's, I go there a lot because they're right by the club. I go to M5 whenever I get time. Most Mondays I take off and I'll go to Dean & DeLuca's wine bar with my brother. I like to have a glass of wine and smoke a cigar.

I live in a house in SouthPark. I love it there. I have a big yard and a new puppy, so it's good for him.

Dating me is kind of tough because I work in a nightclub. But the type of person I'm looking for is not the type who goes to clubs all the time. And she has to have complete trust in me because of the nightclub business.

Noah Lazes

President of Ark Group,
developer of NC Music Factory

I live on Lake Norman. I went to college at UNCC. I started my first club here when I was a senior.

I have a little circuit when I go out. I really like to go to Sunset Club. I might go upstairs to Tutto Mundo and Pewter Rose for an early cocktail. I go to Forum. Now that HOM has opened, I go there. I stop by Cosmos sometimes on the way. I think Alley Cat is a good time, if you want to hear some live music. That's kind of my rotation.

I got a big group of friends who like to go out. I started a car service about a year ago. I'm a big fan of not having to drive, but I've never been a fan of limos. So you'll rarely see me in a limo with ten other people. I'd much rather take a bunch of executive cars where we can all come and go when we please. You'll probably see the car drop me off with about two or three people. Then we'll meet another eight or ten people inside.
Some people have a misconception of what a VIP room is. A lot of clubs try to push you into a back room for VIP. If I hang out in that back room, I'm like, ‘We might as well hang out in my living room.' But if you can sit out at a table near the dance floor then you're in the action. To me there's nothing better than a club that has a rocking sound system, a kick-ass DJ, and your whole table is up and climbing on couches.

So my opinion is that a VIP area shouldn't be a back room separated off where nobody sees you. Maybe if I was Michael Jordan I might feel that way because I get reactions. But I'm not. But VIPs I know, including some on Michael Jordan's level, want to be out in the action. I was at Sunset Club a few weeks ago and Jordan and Derek Jeter were bartending. Because they wanted to get out and meet people. To me that's what going out is about.

Jared Dudley

Charlotte Bobcats rookie forward

I'm originally from San Diego. My dad's from Wilmington so I have ties to the Carolinas. It's nice here. The weather is warm. People have manners. And the food is good. I like Charlotte. There's a lot to do here.

I live in a condo in SouthPark. It's the perfect area. The restaurants are great. I love PF Chang's, but my favorite right now is probably Ruth's Chris. It's expensive, but it's good.

My favorite club downtown is Forum. I've also been to V on the 4th and Crush. I try to switch it up.

When I go out, it's probably with about five or six people. Usually a couple of teammates and our boys. My brother usually rolls with me.

It's more guys who recognize me than girls. Girls will see that I'm tall, have braids, and wear jewelry so I must be a professional athlete.

The best way for a woman to show me she's interested is to give eye contact. Eye contact is very important. She can give me that eye contact and let me know if she's feeling me. If it was someone I was approaching, I'd give eye contact, too. Come up to her and start talking to her. Maybe ask if she wants to come with me to VIP.

You don't really want to meet a girl at the club, even though it usually happens that way. The best way for me to meet a girl is through a friend or somebody I can trust.

The NBA put us through rookie transition. It was three full days of seminars in New York. They talked to us about everything from girls, to drugs, to gambling, to money management, how to deal with family, coaches not talking to you, not playing. Former NBA players came and spoke. The most memorable thing was the stuff they told us about how to handle women. 

Categories: Feature, The Buzz