EXCLUSIVE: Owner talks about future plans for The Soapbox - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

EXCLUSIVE: Owner talks about future plans for The Soapbox

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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - After being a fixture in downtown Wilmington for more than a decade, the doors will be closing at The Soapbox next month.

Inside the establishment you'll find three businesses rolled into one.

There's the Nutt Street Comedy Club, a laundromat and bar, and a music venue. Owner Brent Watkins says it all started out as a quirky idea, but that idea quickly made The Soapbox one of the top places to see live music.

"We've had the likes of Liza Minnelli, Outkast on the stage upstairs performing at the height of their Hey Ya," said Watkins.

According to Watkins, when the economy tanked years ago, they took out a loan. He says it's now impossible to pay back the loan while maintaining the four-story building, adding that the venue is thousands of dollars in debt.

"We have a good thing here," said Watkins. "It's disappointing, but at the same time the pressure that's been building over the last couple of years. Just trying to find a buyer, additional capital has been very difficult."

Twenty people work at The Soapbox, and that includes part and full-time staff.

"I'm disappointed I couldn't continue to provide those jobs for people," said Watkins. "A lot of those people are my friends."

Watkins says most of the future shows scheduled to be held at The Soapbox or Nutt Street Comedy Club will be moved to other venues in Wilmington, and if a show is canceled, there will be refunds.

He says since it's cheaper to operate a comedy club, he is in the process of looking for a new location for Nutt Street.

In the meantime, a place that's entertained thousands will soon just be an empty space.

"We hope what we've done here has encouraged a lot of younger and older musicians, entertainers, and comedians for that matter," said Watkins.

In August, comedian Pauly Shore was scheduled to perform at Nutt Street. That performance has been moved to City Stage.

The following is a news relase sent out Friday from a Nutt Street spokesperson:

"Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Nutt St Comedy Room will no longer be
able to operate at itʼs current location, and unfortunately, must find a new home. All
tenants at 255 N. Front St. will have to vacate the premises by July 31, 2013. The Nutt
St Comedy Room will remain open for business throughout July at itʼs current location,
for all scheduled shows, and hopefully have a new venue to move into once our chapter
here is closed.

The Nutt St Comedy Room is a successful business model, and continues to grow with
each passing year. It has become one of the top comedy clubs in the country. It has
also become a staple in this community, providing a strong environment for local
comedians, and a beloved environment for locals, tourists, and audience members of all
ages. This venue is synonymous with Wilmington comedy, and Nutt St Comedy Room.
It is unfortunate that we are unable to appeal residency at this location, at this time.

Therefore, we are announcing that it is our goal to relocate the Nutt St Comedy Room to
another venue. We are working diligently to find a suitable venue, and hope to have a
quick turn around in reopening the doors to a permanent home for our audiences to
continue to enjoy live, weekly comedy. We will maintain as much of our weekend
bookings as possible, and produce those shows at temporary venues, downtown. Until
our doors are reopened, we also plan to continue our weekly events (Improv, Open
Mic), also, at temporary venues. It is important, and is our goal to continue to provide
stages for our local comedians, and continue to nurture the growth of our local comedy
scene.

On behalf of the Nutt St Comedy Room, and our wonderful staff, we have appreciated
everyoneʼs support in our current location. We have enjoyed the echoes of laughter in
our little hidden basement, and although we will not remain at this venue, we will do our
best to provide Wilmington with a place just as special. Again, the Nutt St Comedy
Room is not closing itʼs doors, and we are open at the current location. So, please
come out and enjoy the room."

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