By Collin Brooks
The Mecca Lounge had never missed hosting a New Year’s celebration, until this year.
That isn’t something that owner Nancy Mack or her daughter Chanda Hughes were pleased with, but neither were any of their downtown business friends.
The closure – forced by a collapsed roof – was out of their control, but their downtown friends are hoping to have a helping hand in their re-opening.
A benefit event is being held in the Mecca Lounge’s honor on Sunday, Jan. 8, at the Willow Tree Coffeehouse that will start at 3 p.m. and go until 10 p.m.
An overwhelming amount of people have offered to donate their talents and time for the night, which will include music and an art sale. All of the proceeds will go to help the Mecca Lounge, according to Main Street Pizza owner Jamie Dove.
Most of the musical talents that will play at the event have called the Mecca Lounge stage home at one point or another. Dove said that they would close the night with a Grateful Dead tribute band. There will also be door prizes and other giveaways throughout the day.
“We are planning to do whatever we can to raise a little bit of money and to lift the spirits of those involved and let them know that everyone is looking out for them and their options aren’t just to close up the doors,” Dove said.
The Mecca Lounge was unable to open after a steady leak — which the owners had been complaining about to their landlord for some time — finally caved in earlier last week, forcing Johnson City’s codes division to post a sign on the front door that called the space “unfit for human habitation/occupation”.
But that wasn’t the first of the complaints from the owners to their landlord. They mentioned to Keith McCrary — the landlord of the establishment at 117 Spring Street — about the leak, and even made it through the summer without air conditioning. The last few months, Mack and Hughes were even paying an extra $200 on their rent each month to help address the roof issues. Still, nothing was done.
“The past few years have been hard years, but we were always able to pay — even if we got behind — we made sure that Keith had his rent,” Mack said. “We paid him rent, even when we couldn’t open with the leaks in the roof. We would still make sure he got his rent, we got behind, but God helped us to where we could pay our rent. But when the ceiling caved in, I got to where I wasn’t putting another penny in (the building).”
The leaking had forced them to cancel shows and close the lounge almost anytime that it was raining, Most recently, they posted a message on their Facebook to notify patrons they would have to cancel their Christmas party.
“I think they found themselves in a situation where the building wasn’t being maintained properly and that is another thing that is kind of near and dear to me,” said Dove, who also owns the building where the Willow Tree Coffeehouse is located. “I think that when a downtown is trying to go through a revitalization, like ours has recently, then the landlords and the business owners having good solid relationships are very important. So we need to get them into a good situation like that.”
And that is exactly what the Mecca Lounge wants, to be back in business, providing a stage and atmosphere that people can enjoy. Mack took over the business from her mother, Melinda Rhea aka “Ms. Peanut”, who retired when she was 89. The establishment has been in the family for 40 years, after Rhea bought it from her business partner.
“It’s a part of me,” Mack said. “It means a lot to me and I think it means to a lot to the people in downtown. We just want to thank everyone that took time to help us and we look forward to opening up soon, and never missing another New Year’s party.”
If anyone can’t make the fundraising event, but would like to make a donation, Dove said that they can stop by the Willow Tree or Main Street Pizza and make the donation.