New owners trying to change Kannapolis bar into a place that's friendly to families

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 12, 2009

By Noelle Edwards
In one way or another, the new owners of Saturday Nite Lounge in Kannapolis recently were inspired to act on their dreams.
Steve Nation lost a couple of close friends.
He, Darell Canup and Randy Blalock all were laid off.
Zach Hudson’s father died and left him some money.
For all four, the life changes were tragedies. But they were also clear messages that the time was right to do what they wanted to do.
And for these four, what they wanted to do was open their own sports bar/family restaurant hybrid.
They rented the building on Main Street in Kannapolis that has long been Saturday Nite Lounge.
Nation said it was dingy and dark and had a reputation for being a rough place.
They cleaned it up, installed extra lighting, brought in tables and designated a nonsmoking section.
The ultimate objective is to create a place where families can come, a positive atmosphere for kids but still a sports bar feel for adults.
Eventually they’ll add a Playstation and Wii that kids can play for free while their parents eat or play pool.
Already, kids can sing karaoke from 5 to 9:30 p.m. At 9:30, Nation said, they encourage parents to take kids home as the lights get dim and dancing starts.
“We’re family men,” Nation said. “We wanted our kids to be able to come in here and have fun.”
Blalock said the Buffalo Wild Wings chain is a model of what he hopes it would be. He said he wouldn’t drop off his kids but he would feel comfortable taking them with him.
“At the end of the day, it really is still a bar,” Nation said.
To help control the crowd, the owners charge a $5 annual membership fee.
The price is negligible, Nation said, but it gives them the opportunity to turn people away.
“I want to be proud of this place and feel good bringing my kids here,” Nation said.
As an incentive for people to pay the $5, members can get a free appetizer with an appetizer purchase once a month.
They all invested all the money they had to make the bar work.
“That’s motivating,” Nation said. “It’s a little bit scary, but to me it’s almost nervous excitement.”
Nation said it’s a little unnerving to see other bars in the area closing while he and the other three have been preparing to open.
But he said he thinks the new sports bar has a greater variety of activities and a broader appeal than others in the area.
He said the bar is “offering something positive in this bad economy and this bad area.”
Canup, Blalock, Hudson and Nation are still deciding what to call the place.
For now, the sign still says Saturday Nite Lounge, but they don’t want to keep that name for long.
A new name would help renew the restaurant’s reputation, Nation said.
They’ve tossed around The Locker Room, Shark and Score but haven’t settled on anything.
They don’t exactly have time to sit around thinking of names. The four owners do pretty much everything: clean toilets, negotiate contracts, cook and serve food, tend bar and handle the finances.
They get a little help waiting tables when it gets busy, and they pay the original owner to run pool tournaments.
Otherwise, they take complete ownership of making the place run.
Last Saturday, they even drove people who had too much alcohol home, and drove their cars home too.
Blalock said that might not continue, that they might have to just call cabs. Nation was working until 6 a.m. because he was trying to get people home and close up the bar, he said.
They’ve explored the idea of offering limo rides for a few dollars a person for a group of people.
Nation said he enjoys coming up with new things to add, new ways to attract and keep customers.
“For the first time in months, I enjoy coming to work,” Nation said.
The four owners are doubling their dream: In the sports bar, they plan to hold fundraising events for Athletes 4 Children, a nonprofit organization Nation founded to raise money for families of kids with cancer.
Nation said he felt blessed after his daughter was born healthy, so he founded Athletes 4 Children to help families who weren’t as lucky.
Canup, Blalock and Hudson have worked with the organization also.
Athletes 4 Children operates an after-Thanksgiving flag football game to raise money. Now, the owners plan to host indoor events at their sports bar. Plans are in the works for bar olympics in about a month. People would form teams and compete in pool, darts, poker and cornhole toss.
Nation said, “I can do fundraisers all winter long.”