When Rum Runners manager Charles Armstrong arrived at the dueling piano bar in City Market on Wednesday night, at least 40 people already were lined up to enter.
And that was an hour before it opened. The line didn’t wind down until 1:30 a.m. or so, and the drinks were flowing all night.
But Wednesday was special. It was the last night in City Market, a spot Rums Runners has occupied since 2001. Its lease expires at the end of the month, and a new permanent location is in the works, Armstrong said.
“We’ll definitely miss it,” Armstrong said. “It’s been our home. We’re sad to see it go.”
But Armstrong said he’s excited about a new location and new opportunities. On May 10, Rum Runners will start a series of pop-up shows at Traine, an event space in Seaboard Station on Peace Street. He said Traine is Rum Runners’ sister company.
The same piano players who have whipped up audiences into a raucous frenzy will move to the new location. Shows will be Wednesday and Friday nights in May. Other venues could be scheduled for future pop-up shows.
Armstrong said a new permanent home isn’t official yet.
“We have every intention of staying in downtown Raleigh,” he said.
The tropical-themed bar, founded by Mike Scozzafave in Lansing, Mich., has been a nightlife mainstay since it moved from Falls of Neuse Road to downtown. It’s been the site of countless birthday and bachelorette parties.
A rotation of pianists – four on Saturdays alone – takes requests from the audience. Often, unsuspecting audience members get singled out to perch themselves on the piano for a serenade.
“They can play anything from Bon Jovi to Metallica to ‘Baby Got Back,’ ” Armstrong said. “There’s a lot of interaction with the crowd.”
The most requested songs, Armstrong said, are “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” (Journey), “Sweet Caroline” (Neil Diamond), “Piano Man” (Billy Joel), “Livin’ on a Prayer” (Bon Jovi) and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (Def Leppard).
There’s a dance club, too, with DJ 40 oz. spinning tunes. He’ll move to Seaboard Station and may play music alongside the piano players.
“Everyone comes together,” Armstrong said. “We want everyone to come. Everyone has a blast.”
And that’s what happened Wednesday as Rum Runners had to get rid of the alcohol in its bar. They won’t be able to take it to a new location, Armstrong said. With every drink $1.50, the bar sold about 5,000 drinks until it shut down at 2 a.m., which Armstrong estimates is at least double if not triple the typical night.
“Last night was crazy,” he said. “We’re out of vodka, out of rum, out of whiskey. We have a couple of bottles of cordials left. That’s it.”
A representative with City Market wasn’t immediately available.