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Wham City Moves Into Zodiac

By John Barry | Posted 9/10/2008

For years, Midtown's Station North Arts and Entertainment District has been the site of intense jockeying for influence by landlords and developers. Now a new element has been factored into the equation: the burgeoning Wham City collective. Since 2006, Wham City's Copy Cat building events had attracted hundreds of young people, until the collective was forced out. More recently, Wham City secured a smaller space on North Calvert Street, where it encountered resistance from the local community association, and so it has decided to move on.

"We went to a few of the neighborhood alliance meetings," Wham City member and organizer Adam Endres says. "They told us they'd do everything they could to stop each one of our shows. We just didn't have the resources, so we had to leave."

He didn't have to look far. Endres works with a few other Wham City members at the Club Charles, where they found a new landlord. On Sept. 16, Wham City will start hosting events at 1726 N. Charles St., site of the recently closed Zodiac Restaurant.

The 12-year-old Zodiac closed its doors in early August. While building owner Joy Martin, who also owns the adjoining Club Charles, says the transformation of the Zodiac from a restaurant to an arts venue is a "win-win" for both Wham City and herself, she says it wasn't her idea to begin with. She places blame for her restaurant's shutdown on recent sidewalk construction along Charles Street.

"There's not much I could do," Martin says ruefully, staring out of the Club Charles at the slabs of granite and cement awaiting the brick layering for the new, wider sidewalk. "They cut the water, the gas, they've broken windows and chipped pieces. One customer came by the other day and told me, `They're making this area look like hell.'"

When Wham City expressed interest, Martin says she jumped at the opportunity. The relatively small space will be used for rehearsals, karaoke, theater, and Martin says the former Zodiac is the perfect spot: "They'll have a full-service bar, there's a stage, and a balcony."

Immediate plans are still vague. For the moment, Endres says, Wham City will host Tuesday night events at the former Zodiac, "because there usually isn't much else going on on Tuesdays." He also envisions an eclectic mix of entertainment. "We're going to have some dance parties. There's going to be theater. We'll be continuing our lecture series. We're going to do some roasting. There'll be karaoke. . . . There'll be a lot of good things."

The Zodiac, with its capacity of roughly 150, isn't big enough to hold Wham City's larger events, "so we're still keeping our eyes open," Endres says.

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