Local Sports Bar and Comedy Club Closes
Augusta Athletics Sports Bar and Grille, a nearly year-old local bar that doubled as a comedy club, has closed after its final night in business Tuesday night.
Jackson Brown, the bar’s founder and owner, said he received an eviction notice last week. For Brown, it signaled the end of a months-long struggle to launch Augusta’s first full-time comedy club since Comedy House Theatre closed in 1998.
“It has been such an uphill battle,” Brown said.
That was largely due to a city ordinance that stated his establishment could not legally operate a comedy club at 3629 Walton Way Ext because the shopping center wasn’t zoned for entertainment.
After opening the venue in December of 2016, Brown spent months fighting the ordinance to no avail and was forced to brand the business strictly as a sports bar that held regular karaoke nights, which were permitted by the ordinance.
The two-in-one business model that combined a bar and comedy club is one that Brown said he saw succeed in Myrtle Beach, prompting him to try it in Augusta. He didn’t foresee the issues the city would have with making that idea a reality.
“They were basically telling me, ‘Why don’t you go do this somewhere else?” Brown said.
Finally, in July, Brown was permitted to host stand-up performances under a revised ordinance, and he began setting up comedy nights.
Brown hosted around five stand-up comedy shows at the venue he named “The Best Medicine.” None of them attracted crowds of any size close to what Brown had become accustomed to when he was managing comedy clubs in Myrtle Beach before trying to open his own in Augusta.
“We just couldn’t draw anybody,” Brown said.
Brown knew he wasn’t in a strong market for comedy. Even when Jay Leno played Bell Auditorium in 2015, Brown was shocked at how few people showed up. But he thought the lack of a single comedy club in Augusta might be the perfect reason to open one for locals who were hungry for laughs.
A series of advertisements in local newspapers didn’t seem to work. And the bar’s “Sports Bar” sign didn’t effectively market to comedy fans driving down Walton Way Extension.
“We’ll be doing karaoke night tonight,” Brown said on the Tuesday before Augusta Athletics Bar and Grille closed. “Hopefully I can sell the rest of the beer I’ve got.”
The presence of family in Augusta, including a mentally disabled brother whom Brown helps care for, was one of the main reasons Brown came back home. Now that he’s had to close up shop, he says he might try his hand once more in Myrtle Beach, where he has a network of friends and colleagues in the business of making people laugh.
“Most likely, I’m going to go back to Myrtle Beach,” Brown said.