Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a bit about how he imagines bottled water was invented.
He pictures a French boardroom full of snooty executives smoking cigars. Someone leans back in his leather chair and with a raised eyebrow says, "How dumb do I think the Americans are? I bet you we could sell those idiots water."
It's one of my favorite jokes of all time. Like all transcendent comedy, it speaks truth to power. The perception of gullibility some corporate powers hold for their markets borders on contempt. In that sense, our consumption is part of an elaborate prank: the setup is a crappy product, the exaggeration is a ridiculous price point, and the punchline is that we buy it.
Southend's new lounge Lost & Found is a joke. I don't mean that in an insulting way. OK, I do. But even more than that, I mean that it's a case study in how to make a buttload of money as a bar while failing to do anything particularly well.
Lost & Found would crash and burn in a just world, but they have neon signs, pink couches, and an insta-meme gimmick. Everyone in this city will eventually be forced to visit out of morbid curiosity or for a friend's 40th birthday party, and we'll all be dumber for the experience.
The funniest part of Lost & Found is that I couldn't find it.
My Lyft driver's GPS took him to an empty parking lot. He offered to drive me around and look for it, which was dope of him, but I instead chose to wander around like an idiot until I saw the blue neon sign outside.
For the record, it's right across the street from Seoul Food.
The outside patio has fire pits and ferns, but is a lot more sparse looking when not zoomed in for maximum PR photo ops. It overlooks their parking lot and a busy intersection, but has a cute enough view of Southend's many identical apartment complexes.
The interior looks like it was designed by someone with a Masters in psychology whose only goal was to make women in their 20s drink cocktails. There's lots of color and neon. Pinks, blues, reds, and for some reason, yellow lighting fixtures. There's tons of greenery, ferns, and flowers. The floor has a sort of stepping stone pattern. For some reason, I found myself craving running water, like a fountain or maybe a waterfall.
There are a few giant TVs. On this Thursday night, NFL football was on. I figured I could grab a seat and watch the game while I took notes for this review, but there were no available seats at the bar by the time I was ready to sit. Looking around, I realized there are actually not many seats with good TV access at all, so that's a waste.
The crowd was mostly young women on their phones and an odd amount of dudes in their 40s on dates with women in their 20s.
Let's address the pastel pink elephant in the room: a female focused bar owned and operated by dudes is insultingly stupid.
This place isn't "for women." It's for a very specific kind of woman. She's young, paid very well, probably white, and fits into an alley of femininity presented here so narrowly, it could only have come from the mind of a male.
It's like something you'd expect to see in Seinfeld. Kramer announces he's going to open a female focused lounge.
"But you can't open a female lounge! You're not a woman!" Jerry says incredulously.
"Why not? Some flowers, a couple of pink couches, and giddeyup! You got yourself a feminist oasis!" Kramer responds.
Cue laugh track.
What about teachers? What about nurses? What about single mothers? What about the city that still sits in the shadow of the transphobic HB2 bathroom bill now emblazoning a NO BOYS ALLOWED neon sign above its restroom? Everything doesn't have to be for everybody, but the men who run Lost & Found have opened themselves up for this kind of discourse, and it doesn't hold up to inspection.
Anyway, I ordered a Not So Bland cocktail. Clever name. The understaffed bar got to me as quick as they could, but it was still a wait. My total for one drink was $15 with tip. It tasted like a mocktail. I'm not anti-$15 cocktails, but at least give me a solid amount of liquor. The irony of ordering a cocktail called Not So Bland that turned out to be bland was not lost on me.
Afterward, I was starving. I walked down to Tavern on the Tracks and ordered a greasy meatloaf sandwich with fries and finished watching the game. There was a motorcycle club in leather jackets making a lot of noise, two dudes complaining about their bank job, and a lot of people just staring up at the TV screens watching basketball or hockey or football.
I guess if Lost & Found is a female-focused bar, Tavern would have to be a male-focused bar. Tavern isn't pretty or slick. They don't have fancy cocktails with jalapenos, or a DJ, or a neon sign that says NO GIRLS ALLOWED.
Tavern does every single thing a bar should do better than Lost & Found. Lots of places do. But you don't have to be good at something to be successful. You just have to get a lot of attention while you do it.
Lost & Found is really good at drawing attention to itself. It flashes and buzzes just like those neon signs. Charlotteans won't be able to help but be drawn in. A city that was once referred to as a hornet's nest is now full of moths.
And when you think about it, that's pretty funny.