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Raleigh's Hayes-Barton Grill to Change with the...

Posted December 14, 1997

— It's just a drug store counter, really. But for 70 years, the Hayes Barton Grill has been a centerpiece of Raleigh's Five Points area.

But in the past few years the area has become more upscale. And now, the grill will follow.

But when you go upscale, some people get upset. To its generations of customers, the Hayes Barton Grill is more than a restaurant. It's history.

That's why when word got out that owner Bobby Lewis was changing it, the first reaction w as "I don't know what he's gonna do, but I don't like it."

Barbara Conley's grandmother used to run the grill. She agrees with the old-timers. "They don't like change. They want it to stay the same. They want to bring their children in here because they came here as children, and they want it to have the same menu.

But even the look the grill has now hasn't been long standing -- this 50s look was added about eight years ago, when Lewis bought the place.

Lewis promises the grill won't be overhauled, just tweaked. A new floor. Additions, not subtractions, to the menu. Better coffee. Because it's time to do something.

"This is as prime a piece of real estate as there is in Raleigh, just look at the cars that come by here every minute. So if you own a restaurant in this spot, it's hard to justify having your high end item be pimiento cheese.

It's all economics. You've got to keep up with the times and change at least a little bit as you go along, because rents are expensive in the Five Points area.

Raleigh mayor Tom Fetzer uses the grill as his campaign headquarters on election night. Fetzer says the place is an icon, and "You don't mess around with icons casually."

He agrees that the grill needs a lift. And maybe it will be one everybody can live with.

We'll find out in about three weeks, when the grill reopens after its facelift.


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