"Well, yesterday's news is what I have been reading/ See you at the Comet and I end up needing." —Ryan Adams and Phil Wandscher, "Yesterday's News"
In the late '90s, the Comet Lounge at 3003 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh was the place to be before, after and even during Brewery shows. The Comet wasn't just adjacent to The Brewery: There was a secret passageway of sorts that connected the two.
"The Comet Lounge was a damn cool bar," says Van Alston, who owned the place for nine of its 11 years on Hillsborough St. "Serving liquor and being next to The Brewery brought in a lot of musicians."
The Comet Lounge had a touch of multiple personality disorder, too. The weekends were about dance music—not Alston's cup of tea, but it brought in the crowds that paid the bills. "Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays were a whole different story, though," Alston says. "Phil Wandscher, Chip Robinson and Ryan Adams were some of the DJs that we had on those nights. I loved those nights, talking about music with musicians."
After The Comet Lounge closed, a bar named Katmandu took its place. Standing in front and looking through the big twin windows, I try to decide whether the place looks any different these days, but I remember that I'd actually never entered the Comet through the front door. I'd always made my way via that connecting hallway.
I walk in, and the place is empty except for me and the bartender—not surprising since, at 3:01 p.m. on a Thursday, it's only been open for one minute. Katmandu, as it turns out, is a sports bar, a pleasant neighborhood corner spot where you'll find pool tables instead of moonlighting DJs from alt.country bands. And the inscription below the bar's name on the window—"That's where I'm going to"—means that the new owner is a Bob Seger fan.
I look past the bar to where the passage from The Brewery used to spill into the Comet, and that area has been covered by wood paneling. The bartender follows my eyes and anticipates my question: "Yeah, that's closed up," he says. "When The Brewery got liquor, it just wasn't needed anymore." Now that's a line that Ryan Adams could spin into gold, no pun intended.