What's on Tap

What's on Tap

'Relentless' Raleigh restaurant business sees comings, goings

Posted January 8

— When Raleigh diners head out for dinner on Friday night, some will find their favorite restaurant is no longer in business.

Over the course of 2015, eight restaurants in downtown Raleigh closed their doors. Some, like Natty Greene's, made a splash and held a party. Others, like the Seaboard Station iteration of Tyler's Taproom, went out with a whimper. Two more have closed over the past month.

But foodies need not worry.

Bill King, planning and development manager for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, attributed the turnover to the nature of the business.

Running a successful restaurant is tough, he said. "It's a very challenging job. It's rigorous. It's long hours. It's relentless."

Still, King sees a growing market. Food and beverage sales in downtown in 2015 were up 9 percent over 2014. About a dozen new restaurants opened last year, and a dozen more are in the planning stages.

When restaurants close, King said, the alliance talks to owners to find out why. Those answers vary.

"Some restaurants sort of run their course," he said. "In some situations, the owners have decided to move on."

That's no consolation to ​barber Tony McDowell, who was a regular at McDaids on Hillsborough Street. The Irish pub's last day in business was Jan. 1.

"It ain't gonna be the same," he said. "It's kind of sad because some are like icons, monuments they've been here for a long time."

David Meeker, owner of Busy Bee Cafe and The Hive, knows the challenge of keeping customers coming in day and night.

"My partners and I have been following this very closely, and we've had friends who haven't made it," he said.

King pointed to the boom in downtown living as a boon to downtown businesses.

About 2,000 new residences are being added within the downtown footprint, and there is a push to diversify businesses along Glenwood South, he said.

"I think the council, Downtown Raleigh Alliance and businesses have to be really smart over the next two to three years on how to make this transition so that the businesses make it," he said.

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