Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson, who occasionally has to fly standby, is out for at least eight weeks with a hamstring injury. Which means he has a little extra time to devote to a new passion: opening a restaurant:
According to property records, Johnson bought what used to be Charlotte Fire House No. 4, near the corner of W. 5th and Graham streets, in March for $1.6 million. The property’s at the corner of W. 5th and Graham streets in uptown Charlotte’s Fourth Ward, and it’s actually registered to a holding company run by Johnson: Randy Watson Holdings, LLC. @randywattson just happens to be the name of Johnson’s Twitter handle, and Watson is also the lead singer of the band Sexual Chocolate in Coming to America. That boy’s good.
But wait! Johnson bought the property from the Alfred Pennyworth Company, another holding company run by comic book enthusiast and Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil. Pennyworth is Bruce Wayne’s butler in the Batman comics, movies, and TV shows. Kalil bought the property for $1.3 million in 2013 from Preferred Parking.
The firehouse was built in the 1920s, but the city of Charlotte stopped using it as an actual firehouse in 1972. It became an art gallery and later a firefighting museum until it was designated as a historic landmark in 2008.
Here’s where it gets good: This is the same firehouse used in an FBI sting to bring down former Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon. An undercover agent, posing as a developer, told then-councilman Cannon that he wanted to open a nightclub in the same spot:
The property had problems. Most people who looked into this property stopped being interested in the property after they saw how complicated the issues were going to be… One of those issues was parking. There are spots all around the building, but the building itself only had four spots. The firehouse also had to be split away from property around it, and because then it was classified as historic, nearly any change would require a lot of permits and approval.
According to court documents, Cannon agreed to help clear those issues up if the agent made a $12,500 investment into HERS, a company Cannon supposedly formed to sell feminine hygiene products. The actual delivering of the bribe by the agent (listed here as UCE1) led to one of the more vivid scenes from the case: