Spinning Wheel 

One of the city’s youngest promoters takes over the former Kingdom.

click to enlarge Eric “E.J.” Lewter Jr. sits in his new club, the Top, in the space at 10 Walnut Alley in Shockoe Bottom, which formerly held Alley Katz and Kingdom.

Scott Elmquist

Eric “E.J.” Lewter Jr. sits in his new club, the Top, in the space at 10 Walnut Alley in Shockoe Bottom, which formerly held Alley Katz and Kingdom.

A shuttered nightspot on Broad Street was relaunched last month as the midsize concert venue Broadberry. And now the former home of Alley Katz and Kingdom is slated to become the Top, a nightclub aimed at an upscale urban crowd.

Those who've known the former punk club as a somewhat dingy if cozy spot for years may be surprised by its newfound identity and look, which includes more lighting, plush furniture, new bathrooms and fresh paint.

The venue will be operated by Eric "E.J." Lewter Jr., a 25-year-old promoter who's refurbished and patched up the Walnut Alley location with a $50,000 investment from his parents. "We basically changed everything around," Lewter says. "We tried to make it more lavish, plush. We built stages and platforms … expensive furniture."

Lewter got his start promoting parties in high school and eventually moved to nightclubs, working at the 321 Supper Club and for Uplift Entertainment. The Top name hints none too subtly at his ambitious plans for his first venture.

"You know how most people say they want to be the top nightclub or the top restaurant?" he says. "That's why we named it that."

Historically, urban nightlife in Richmond hasn't known much consistency. With a few exceptions, most nightclub offerings are provided by a handful of promoters who shift from venue to venue, leaving clubs without an identity.

Lewter, who's leasing the building with an option to purchase, says he's committed to making the Top live up to its name. "There will always be a strict dress code," he says.

The last club in that building was Kingdom, known for its live music. It shut down in December after two years. Alley Katz, known for raucous punk shows and serving as host to Lucha Libre wrestling, closed in 2011. Lewter says he plans to bring live music back to the venue when it reopens at the end of May, including jazz, R&B and Latin bands.

Although he may be one of the youngest club owners in the city, Lewter says the relationships he's built as a promoter are strong enough to sustain his family's new venture. S




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