Some sad news hit the office this week: West Ashley music venue and bar The Map Room is halting operations and shutting its doors this Friday, May 16*.
Located in the Village Square Shopping Center at 1650 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. in West Ashley, the venue has mixed it up with a wild variety of live rock, blues, jazz, and pop music four-to-five nights a week. They also featured weekly trivia and karaoke nights, DJ dance nights, hip-hop concerts, open mic events, and occasional theatrical performances.“It was weird — over the last few months, people just stopped coming out,” says manager, co-owner, and main booking dude Ryan Brown. “I couldn’t book anything that would bring ’em out. We’ve had some pretty big acts — some of whom drew large crowds before — and the crowds were surprisingly small. I did the numbers and had to make the call.”
Brown oversaw the renovation of the space (formerly used by Johnson & Wales) in the summer and fall of 2005. They officially opened in November of that year. By their one-year mark, they’d settled into a more rock club and tavern vibe. An unusual collection of flags adorned the walls. The stage area went from totally bare to busily decorated. The sound and lighting situation improved. The dinner menu expanded. Regulars crowded around the horseshoe-shaped bar during happy hour. 98x’s Local X crew and other local radio stations folks supported shows.Brown and his staff booked some of the weirdest bands and artists on the road and in town — touring bands from cool music scenes and exotic locations, up-and-coming local acts, international groups hitting S.C. for the first time, and popular regional original bands. They booked acoustic acts of various styles during happy hour. They booked campy tribute bands and seasonal special events. They pulled nationally-known touring bands away from other, more established Charleston music venues. Despite their diligent efforts and idealism, the financial reality became clear this month.“It’s a million little things,” says Brown, “but the main factors were the effects of the recent smoking ban, the state of the economy, and the rise in gasoline prices, which affected the amount of money we had to guarantee certain bands, and affected how often people came out to West Ashley.”Their website (www.themaproom.net
) went down on Tuesday, although their Myspace page is still up (www.myspace.com/maproom
). Brown had to cancel all of the May and June shows scheduled. He predicts a bit of a Map Room comeback down the line, though.“I’d like to tell people that the Map Room is going underground for a while,” Brown says. He and some of his staff are already considering freelance booking and production work around town, as well as ideas for a new venue. “We’re closing this week, but we’ll resurface somewhere in West Ashley, somehow or another.”