This story was updated with new details in June 2022.
“Cultural events are our specialty. Not a cookie-cutter commercial space. Spoken word, open mic music and comedy, readings, book signings, casual meetings, flow, concerts, pop-ups for fashion, art, crafts, dance, album releases, drag, birthdays, anniversaries, funeral after parties, etc.” – Ruth Ava Lyons, co-founder of Starlight on 22nd
Unless headed to Girls Rock Charlotte at 423 E. 22nd St., you may never have had occasion to venture down 22nd Street, just off N. Davidson St., in Charlotte. There’s not much there.
Or, at least, there hasn’t been until NoDa pioneers Ruth Ava Lyons and her husband, Paul Sires – and their son, Orion Sires – opened their new bar/art space/live music venue.
The previously nondescript cinderblock building has been given new life by the couple who literally invented NoDa when they opened Center of the Earth Gallery.
Back then, there was little else in the neighborhood besides Pat’s Time for One More, a bar that time had seemingly forgotten. Soon enough, there were other galleries, restaurants (moment of silence for the late, great Fat City and Kelly’s Café) and monthly first-Friday gallery crawls that drew big and eclectic crowds.
NoDa was not yet Charlotte’s go-to “Arts District” – a moniker that would come once the old mill houses started to be renovated and galleries proliferated. It was simply the coolest place in town.
Sires and Lyons closed Center of the Earth in 2010 but both have continued their art – painting for Lyons, sculpting for Sires.
Now, they’re back in the placemaking game – near where it all started decades ago – with Starlight on 22nd.
It’s a private club, but not the snooty kind. It’s private only because North Carolina’s ABC laws mandate that an establishment that doesn’t serve food – but does serve alcohol – must be a membership-only club. You’ll pay $1 to join, and that’ll cover you for a full year.
Building an art bar
The cocktail straws are paper, not plastic. The ceiling in the entryway is made entirely of street lights. The host stand? It’s a former pulpit Sires bought from a consignment store years ago.
“We’re bringing art to the people,” Lyons said, as she pointed to the chalkboards that line one side of the interior. Patrons have created chalk drawings and left messages for other club members. (“#RageReasonably” was one that stood out to me.)
Head past the bar and the snack rack, and you’ll find “The Audrey Room,” a tribute to Audrey Hepburn. Just beyond that is a game room. Out front and off to the side are outdoor seating areas.
“We want people to feel like this is their living room without tv screens, relaxed and interesting,” said Lyons. She says Starlight on 22nd is for those over 21. It’s pet-friendly and open to “all types of guests.”
A standout out on a sought-after block
You can’t help but notice the construction happening on either side of the cinderblock building. Lyons said Starlight on 22nd (and Girls Rock Charlotte directly across the street) may eventually look a little like Plaza Midwood’s Thirsty Beaver – engulfed on two sides by larger buildings.
The Starlight crew expects to showcase rotating art exhibits. For now, some of Lyons’ older work – giant canvases depicting people and planets, for instance – welcome you.
The facility offers:
- full bar
- walls for projecting
- 100 chairs
- a grill
- small prep kitchen
- private meeting space.
- open space with garage door to the patio
- sound system and mic
There is limited free parking and a mass transit stop one block away.
Starlight was designed to become a cultural center for book and poetry readings, live music, pop-up happenings and more. People have already begun renting it for private parties – it holds 125. You can bring in your own caterer.
If you get hungry for more than the chips and crackers offered, you can order from NoDa Market & Deli around the corner. They’ll deliver directly to your table, Lyons said. Eventually, the team may add a kitchen and offer more food themselves.
Meet, perform, think … and drink
The reason to come here – besides the chill vibe – is the drinks. Canned beers range from PBR to Wicked Weed Day Light to NoDa Brewing’s Hop, Drop & Roll IPA. Blue Moon, and 21st Amendment’s El Sully Mexican lager are among a dozen draft beers.
The $24 mimosa bucket – a bottle of Prosecco plus orange juice – has proved popular. With names like “Super Nova” and “Galactica,” cocktails are out of this world. (Get it?)
Lyons insisted on having a dark drink on the menu. The bartenders responded with “Black Hole,” made with vodka, black Triple Sec, cranberry, lime, simple syrup and orange bitters.
Or ask the bartender to make you something. They’ll be happy to oblige.
Ready to swing on a star?
Starlight on 22nd is open Tuesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturdays from noon to midnight and Sundays from noon to 7 p.m.
- ADDRESS: 422 East 22nd Street
- SIZE: Approximately 4,000 sq.ft.
- WEB: starlighton22nd.com
- INSTAGRAM: @starlighton22nd
- FOOD: Full bar and small bites. Occasional food trucks. Guests are welcome to bring outside food.
- OPENED: Fall 2021
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