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Club Crash: Flying Anvil to close after seven months

by Amy Kingsley

Rock clubs tend to reflect the characteristics of their patrons. Most that have been in business awhile develop rough edges, a consequence of so much on-premises beer consumption. And the bathrooms – like the arms of a seasoned rockabilly guitarist – become inked-up billboards of impulsive romance, local feuds and literary longing.

The Flying Anvil’s lavatories were just starting to collect Sharpie scrawlings. In the women’s restroom, about three stalls down, a bug-looking outline danced and two statements extolled Chazzie’s hotness. The rest of the pressboard wall remained a tasteful, decidedly un-music club field of gray.

Owners of the Flying Anvil installed about a dozen stalls in the women’s restroom, enough to accommodate a sell-out crowd. Unfortunately the crowds, for the most part, haven’t materialized and the stalls remained not only blank, but also unused.

And now, barring the emergence of new owners, the Flying Anvil is closing. Primary owner Pete Schroth said the venue – which has hosted acts ranging from indie rock luminary Cat Power to roots music legend Leon Russell – will close its doors by the end of the year.

Schroth blamed personal obligations for his impending exit from the business. His youngest son has some health issues, and during the last seven months, hefty Flying Anvil responsibilities have interfered with doctor appointments and family time. Schroth acknowledged that the club had been having some financial difficulties recently.

The Flying Anvil’s opening in mid-April triggered an avalanche of media attention from across the Triad. GoTriad, Relish, YES! Weekly and the News & Record prominently featured stories about the venture. It wasn’t the only live music club downtown – Greene Street and the N Club regularly feature bands – but it was the only one promising to raise Greensboro’s musical profile enough to draw up-and-coming acts and their fans from Asheville and Chapel Hill.

“We took on a challenge when we started this place,” Schroth said. “When we bought it, it was full of cars and oil.”

Schroth, Brian Crean and several other investors transformed the former garage into a swanky music establishment complete with brushed chrome bar and high-end sound system. The venue, a low cinderblock structure situated snugly between an alley full of antique shops and an automotive detailer, sat below the Eugene Street overpass. From that angle, the bunker-like structure ringed by tall wire fencing looked appropriately forbidding. But it quickly became home to music fans and touring bands from North Carolina and nationwide.

At first the Flying Anvil opened with a full-service bar that included liquor alongside beer, wine and “malternative” beverages. That setup required memberships purchased three days before attendance. The policy, dictated by state blue laws, confused some music fans that drove in from across the region. The owners rid the club of liquor by summer and abolished the membership requirement after running afoul of Alcohol Law Enforcement. Schroth said the decision to sell liquor was a misstep, but that it did not doom the club.

“I think having liquor just confused people,” Schroth said. “Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, but I think it seriously got in the way of the music.”

Brian Crean, an investor and bar manager, wrote in an e-mail he enjoyed working with Schroth and booking agent Andrew Dudek.

“It tears me up that I can’t help them make money any longer,” he wrote. “And, it tears me up that Greensboro might not be able to welcome back bands like the Avett Brothers, the Everybodyfields, the Mountain Goats and Cat Power.”

Dudek’s record store, Gate City Noise, which relocated from Tate Street to the Flying Anvil when the space opened, is closing on Dec. 22. Dudek does not plan to reopen the store in another location.

None of the three have solid plans for the future. Crean has offered to help transition the space to new owners if they come forward. He and Schroth said relationships with booking agents and beer distributors have already been established.

“I would love for someone to walk in here and keep it going,” Schroth said. “We’ve got tons of contacts in the booking world. To me the hard part is over.”

The night after they announced their closing, Schroth and Crean hosted an art opening with Jaime Coggins of the Space. Unless someone emerges to keep the club going, this framed, movable art is the only kind that will have had the opportunity to take root at the Flying Anvil. All three of the principal players, Crean, Schroth and Dudek, are also artists. Despite the loss of this particular canvas, it’s likely you’ll see more work from each of them in the future.

For now Schroth will continue to work at the Green Bean, a coffee shop on Elm Street he also owns. His immediate plans after the Flying Anvil closes are simpler.

“With a business like this you basically don’t ever clock out,” Schroth said. “The first thing I’m going to do is clock out.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com

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