Dim lights, acoustic tunes, an ice-cold beer with a plate of barbecue shrimp and grits -- when the Bait & Tackle locks their doors on Sunday morning, West Ashley will lose a piece of soul. Sure, there's a shiny new barbecue joint next door with a solid live music schedule and Gene's is only a mile down Magnolia Road but there's something about the cinderblock blue building that beckons drivers on Highway 61 to pull over and take it easy.
Co-owners Andrew Hollowell and Yates Dew opened the B&T in 2005 with a concert by the Biscuit Burners for a sold-out crowd, and Hollowell remembers the two nights that band performed as highlights of a great run. "To have my favorite band playing at my shop while I'm sitting on the side stage drinking a dollar can of beer is kind of surreal," he says.
Hollowell claims that sales have been up, actually benefiting from the increased traffic and synergy brought by next-door neighbor Fiery Ron's, but that the departure of chef Craig Thompson for a higher-profile, better-paying position was too much to overcome. "Craig was overqualified, and adamant about cooking everything himself," says the co-owner. "He was extremely trustworthy and a good friend, and basically, we just don't want to start from scratch."
Where will the Holy City Heels go to watch UNC cut down the nets next week? When Flatt City gets around to booking gigs again, where are they gonna play? What are they going to do with the cool blue neon light with the two fishing hooks?
Several prospective buyers have inquired about the property, and it's not unforeseeable that the B&T will live on under new ownership. The bar first opened in 1966 as a tackle shop with cold beer. Dew and Hollowell brought it back to life, adding the "No Bait, No Tackle" catchphrase painted in black letters on the porch.
To celebrate their short but raucous existence, the B&T will host two bands this weekend who have previously brought large turnouts -- the Good News gospel-bluegrass band on Fri. March 23 and Asheville-based Town Mountain on Sat. March 24. On the downside, the kitchen's already closed, but chances are you can still get a late-night Moon Pie.