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The Last Days of Jackpot!


Jackpot is gone.

UPDATE 04/14:

The Jackpot is closing, but probably not any time soon. I spoke with owner Michael D’Amelio, and he wanted to stress that while the guys that work there had a good laugh at “the internet rumors”, there were no plans to close it down.

Its days are certainly numbered, but it seems that the work Preservation NC is doing to move/save the Fabius Briggs house that the Jackpot is attached to is helping keep it open in the short term. The house was condemned by the city late last year and faces demolition. The property also sits on a mixed-use development path.

When asked about how long it will stay open, he stated that “it could be a month, or it could be five years”. The Jackpot is going to be shutting down in the not-too-distant future. But for now, it will stay open “as long as customers enjoy it”.

Many came to say their goodbyes and share memories. It seemed the end was very near, but it wasn’t.

This weekend could be the last that it’s open– but it probably won’t.

Original article below:

Just shy of 7 years since opening, the dive bar hidden in plain sight known as Jackpot! is rounding out its final days. It’s been known for a while that its closure was imminent, so folks from far and wide came out  in recent days to enjoy this place for the last time.

The Rockford

The closure falls close on the heels of the sad and unexpected news of the Rockford closing its doors. Owned by the same person (Michael D’Amelio), both establishments were unlike any other in Raleigh. As pointed out in previous Rockford posts, there wasn’t a sign out front advertising the place–the food and atmosphere were only spread by word of mouth. I’ll miss the Jackpot, but I miss the Rockford more.

The One of a Kind Location

The building on Hillsborough Street is easy to miss. The street-facing storefronts were attached to the aging Victorian house some time in the 1950s.

I had speculated on the future of the area when writing about the nearby Staudt Bakery, and the building’s destruction seemed inevitable after the sale of the property and condemnation of the house its attached to. I didn’t think the end of this place would happen so soon, though.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Jackpot! didn’t open until 9PM (I think), so it stands out as perhaps one of the very few (if any) businesses that are never open during daylight hours. Before the smoking ban, it was often derided for its smoky interior (myself sometimes included). After the ban, it seemed like a different place.

It could be absurd, hilarious, fun, ridiculous, or some combination of the above–but it was rarely boring. It was the nightclub/bar that you could show up to wearing nearly anything and not feel out of place.

The toilets were the worst in Raleigh and building was in disrepair. It wasn’t uncommon for cold drafts to blow in at the tables in the Winter due to window panes being broken out. Toward the end the roof was leaking and there were buckets catching some of the rainwater coming in. It’s the place where if you dropped something on the floor, you didn’t pick it back up unless it was a twenty dollar bill or your driver’s license. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, it had a certain mystique to it:

The remarkable thing about Jackpot (and the reason I feel outsiders hated it the most) is that the mystique of the bar made people who didn’t deserve it feel popular, interesting, exciting. As for me, I still refuse to be a hater. After having a front-row seat for the cruelty and unimaginable pettiness of middle America, I can say with 100% “trust me” certainty that the bubble is the best lot the world’s going to offer.

–Raleigh Gawker

The Art and the Artist

The walls were adorned with various masks, the lighting fixtures seemed victorian, and the walls were covered with beautiful painted murals. The Where the Wild Things Are characters in the corner were the the most prominent of all artwork. All of the murals were painted by artist Kristin Matwiczyk (above) not long after opening.

So Long, and Thanks

Image credit: Ian F.G. Dunn

Like many others, I’m sad to see it go. I think Raleigh owes Michael a round of thanks for providing 15 years of a great dining establishment in the Rockford, and the 7 or so years for the gritty favorite known as Jackpot!.

What Will You Remember Most?

Anyone who has spent any amount of time here likely has a story of some very interesting experience here. For me, one of the most memorable happened a while back when I took my younger brother here for his 21st birthday. He had never been in a club environment since turning 21, and I figured he should get the full experience. At some point in the middle of a packed dance floor, someone handed him a gallon jug of wine.  He later recalled that “it seemed perfectly normal at the time”.

What are some of your fond or otherwise memorable experiences at the Jackpot!?

Three images above courtesy of Ian F.G. Dunn

Image credit: Sid Fowler

Above images courtesy of: Sid Fowler

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