BALOG COLUMN: Flag-waving Chucktown Tavern must find new digs
Restaurants and bars open and close all the time.
Keeping one open requires the perfect mix of food, atmosphere and service.
For Hope and Marty Young, that perfect mix has been working for them at Chucktown Tavern, 159 Market St. in the Majestic Square center in downtown Charleston. It's where people gather for food and drinks, to sing karaoke and to hear bands.
But that's likely to come to an end in a few months, unless they can relocate.
Officially, it's because of what the Youngs said was an unmanageable rent increase. And that's valid enough in this still-recovering economy.
But no matter what the official word is, the impression will be that they left because of the so-called flag flap.
Permission vs. forgiveness
To recap: The Youngs sought permission to fly a POW-MIA flag and an American flag on two of four flagpoles outside the bar in fall 2011. In October 2011 the bar hosted a flag-raising ceremony with local Vietnam veteran Allen James and others. Everything was fine, until March 2012, when representatives from their landlord, The Beach Co., told them to remove the flags. Some back-and-forth followed.
On April 2 a Beach Co. representative removed the flags.
Now, The Beach Co. was protecting its, er, assets. When their application with Charleston's BAR was approved, it stated that there would be “banner-type flag with non-type commercial messages, (i.e. no message at all), per plans.” The POW-MIA flag does have, well, type on it: the letters POW MIA and the phrase “You are not forgotten!”
But when the Youngs contacted the city, officials there said they didn't have a problem with the flags.
Whether it was a change of heart or a concern over bad publicity, a few days later, a company representative asked them to fly the flags again.
“It would be hard to draw a direct line,” Young noted, between the ups and downs of the flags and where they find themselves now, though he said their relationship definitely cooled after the flag flap.
Leonard Way, vice president of asset management for the company, pointed out that the flags are still flying now.
“For us, that has been put to bed,” Way said.
Majestic vs. patriotic
“As and when we can, we increase rents,” Way said; he noted that Majestic Square is fully occupied.
The Youngs felt they couldn't swing what they said was a 25 percent rent increase. Now the landlord is looking for a new tenant, preferably another restaurant, and the Youngs are looking for another location, nearby if possible.
One bright spot in all this has been the amazing community support the Youngs said they have received. Veterans groups, the very same people they wanted to honor, offered to help them with fundraisers so they could stay open.
Looking back on the flag issue, Young said, “I can't think of anything that we would have done different.”
From The Beach Co.'s perspective, “it's been a standard tenant-landlord relationship,” Way said.
The Youngs might be looking for something better than that next time.
Reach Melanie Balog at 937-5565 or email@example.com.