Within days of being listed as the longest running nightclub in a Qnotes story recognizing historic gay bars in North and South Carolina, Charlotte’s Scorpio (located on Freedom Drive in West Charlotte) announced they would be closing, with plans to reopen in the near future.
Following up that disclosure comes another dubious announcement: the controversial evangelical mega worship franchise known as Elevation Church will occupy the property and Scorpio has been informed it’s time to go.
The club, which originally began business in 1968, opened early this past Sunday, October 29 with a reunion evening for long time patrons of the club. Perhaps short notice and lack of promotion led to the sparsely attended event, although a handful of patrons did show up for the historic celebration. The evening’s presentation included music by Lin Benfield, a popular DJ at the club during a large portion of its 20th century operations and DJ Ghost, Scorpio’s current resident DJ. Drag performers included Angela Lopez, Ivy Carter and Jayla Serena Mitchell.
Among patrons in attendance was Qnotes publisher Jim Yarbrough, who has long been a supporter of the club. He spoke with Scorpio General Manager Michael Sharpton over the course of the evening, who informed Yarbrough of the latest developments.
The club’s concept and branding are currently owned by local investor Johnny Martin. The property the building sits on, according to public record, was purchased in 2020 by an entity identified only as Freedom Drive Investors, LLC. No additional public record indicates the property has been bought or sold again since that time.
When Sharpton spoke with Qnotes about the closing of the club for a story that was published October 13, he inferred that he was unaware of what the new property owners had in store for the site, or who they actually were, though he did confirm their final day of operation was October 31.
According to Yarbrough, Sharpton has since verified the business was notified by property owners they would need to be out of the space by November 10.
Throughout its history Charlotte has captured attention for a number of specific identifiers: a leader in textile industries and finance; high crime rates and a few years spent at the top of the most murders per capita in the United States list, and – perhaps ironically given the crime and murder labels – the “city of Churches,” because of its over sized number of Christian worship facilities.
To date, the only label for Charlotte still identified with the city is finance hub, or Bank Town, as many visitors and residents refer to Charlotte. According to the website Rentech International, Charlotte is currently home to around 350 Christian churches, a significant drop since the 20th century, but still a sizable number, which does not include temples, mosques and other places of worship.
Elevation Church, according to Google, has more than 20 facilities located across the Eastern United States and Canada. Founder Steven Furtick and seven other families from Christ Covenant Church in Shelby relocated to Charlotte, meeting in Providence High School. On February 5, 2006, the first Sunday worship service was held, with 121 people attending. News analysis from the website premierchristianity.com reported in July of this year, weekly attendance has since increased to more than 26,000.
Two things remain unclear: will Charlotte have enough interest to support yet another Elevation Church and especially in a city with such a sizable number of churches, will it even be possible to fill more pews? According to Sharpton, the building is currently not slated to be demolished and plans are in place to repurpose the structure.
In an OpEd carried by Qnotes written by author Steven Lovegrove, the writer talked about his experiences with Elevation and confirmed Furtick’s position on sexuality: “A few minutes into the first sermon … Steven Furtick admitted that his church often gets asked about their position on sexuality. Apparently, this is a common question about Elevation and one he seems to be tired of hearing. Furtick explained that their position is very simple. He quotes I Corinthians 7:2: ‘Each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband,’ then repeats it patronizingly. He says it’s that easy — if you don’t have a wife, you don’t get to have sex. Then he moves on.”
Elevation’s policy on LGBTQ+ people has consistently remained vague throughout its history. Multiple former members have talked about their experiences after coming out in the church and stated they were shunned and not allowed to hold leadership positions because of their sexual orientation.
The website churchclarity.org indicates that Elevation’s history has indeed remained consistently nebulous, listing their attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community as “unclear.”
The closing of a historic LGBTQ+ gathering place like Scorpio is a huge loss for Charlotte. The fact that an entity such as Elevation, seemingly masquerading as a center of welcoming and love, which reportedly holds such contempt for the LGBTQ+ community and will erase part of that history, suggests the move is rooted in some sort of ulterior motive.