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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

No, WTVD, restaurants aren't closing because of changing Raleigh ordinances

Posted by on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 at 3:17 PM

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Last night, Raleigh television station WTVD 11 published a story lamenting the rash of restaurant-and-bar closings in downtown Raleigh of late. Fair enough—I’ll miss The Borough, too.

But reporter Anna Laurel—with help from the story’s only quoted source, Shop Local Raleigh director Jennifer Martin—stepped beyond mere eulogy to suggest that these closures stem from new Raleigh DrunkTown-related ordinances concerning noise, parking and public alcohol consumption. And while those issues will require adjustments from current and future downtown bars and restaurants, none of the businesses she’s lamenting closed for any of those reasons at all. Not one!

In her fearmongering report, Laurel cited the recent or impending closures of Battistella’s, The Borough, Brewmasters, The Oxford, Tir Na Nog and Tyler’s Taproom. Here are the actual reasons all of those places are closing.

Battistella’s: According to The News & Observer, Battistella’s closed because the lease was up and business was down. Battistella’s had no outdoor seating and access to a relative abundance of free parking for the last half-decade, so these draconian DrunkTown ordinances don’t really apply. Also worth noting: Battistella’s just wasn’t very good.

The Borough: Owner Liz Masnik wants to go to law school to work on animal welfare cases. After a successful decade in the business, she decided to shut it down, yielding the space to another bar and restaurant that will open a month after she closes.

Brewmasters: Brewmasters started good, turned bad and left owner Mark Cook in a quagmire of debt, largely because he wasn’t sure how to manage a restaurant. He takes the blame for the failure, as he discusses in today’s INDY.

The Oxford: This one’s the best. According to director of marketing Tara Zechini, The Oxford—located beside WTVD 11’s studios on Fayetteville Street—is shutting down because of lease changes. The landlord wants part of its property back, which would shut down The Oxford’s private dining room (wiping away a quarter-million dollars in sales) and limit its ability to have live music. And the word on the street is that the extra space will go to an expansion of WTVD 11’s studios, though Joyner Realty Company could not confirm that at press time. Also, The Oxford’s operating group, Eschelon Experiences, is a few months away from opening a new bar inside Fayetteville Street’s Charter Square. Yup, they seem scared of the ordinances.

Tir Na Nog: Really? After two decades, owner Pete Pagano was just ready for something else, so he asked his neighbors at Bida Manda to take the space over. Construction has already started.

Tyler’s Taproom: Tyler Huntington knows how to run his Tyler’s Taproom franchise, which he’s been doing since 1998, and he knows the numbers he needs to hit. He hit them in Raleigh for three years, he says, but his 11,000 square feet in Seaboard Station became too much. As mentioned in today’s INDY, a brewpub, which Huntington helped recruit, is expected to open in that space in May.

Also of note: Exactly one restaurant is cited by name as a source in WTVD’s report, the sushi spot Sono. They say they’re doing great.

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