Like many nights past at Isaac Hayes Restaurant & Nightclub, it is standing room only. But today the crowd isn't here for food, cocktails, or live jazz, and there's no place to sit because most of the chairs are up for auction.
Men and women of all ages and ethnicities stroll through the defunct nightclub inspecting sound equipment, African artwork, and plush, semi-circular booths. The restaurant closed in April of last year.
"Alright, everybody, let's gather up front. We'll begin the auction there and make our way around the restaurant," instructs Ken Roebuck of Asset Recovery Auctions.
The crowd squeezes into a tiny space near the front door, and the excitement begins as Roebuck launches into a mile-a-minute auctioneer chant over a set of wall sconces.
Everything in the restaurant, from hand-carved statues of bare-breasted African women and Isaac Hayes commemorative album plaques to speaker systems and spotlighting, must go. In one far corner, there are even rows of filled salt and pepper shakers awaiting auction.
Paul West from Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church is here to score sound and kitchen equipment, but he's open to any good deals that might come his way.
"We won the big greeting station that was in the front of the restaurant. It went for $150," West says. "We're going to use it as a greeting center for the church."
Others, like Bee Williams, come for the spectacle.
"I like watching people sweat," Williams says. "It's exciting."
But about an hour into the auction, Williams gets into the action and scores two six-foot-tall carved African statues of pencil-thin women with baskets atop their heads for $70.
"We brought some art home from Africa, and I think these will look good with the collection," Williams says.
Betty Maxwell also is looking to enhance her home. After winning all the curtains in the restaurant for $130, Maxwell says she'll use them to partition off her patio. The wrought-iron black railing used to separate restaurant booths from regular seating will become the new fence around Maxwell's yard.
Kris Kourdouvelis, who's known for throwing large parties at his downtown warehouse home, hangs close to the auctioneer as the crowd moves through the restaurant. When the action moves behind the bar, he eagerly places the highest bid on much of the drink mixing equipment. He also wins the restaurant's baby grand piano and four semi-circular booths, one of which is marked with a nameplate that reads "Isaac Hayes Owners Booth."
- No longer reserved for Isaac Hayes, the former "owner's booth" will grace Kris Kourdouvelis' downtown warehouse.
"I didn't even intend to get that one," says Kourdouvelis, who will use the new seating, cocktail equipment, and sound amplifiers during parties. "I just wanted a set."