The fact that something changes is a sign that it’s still alive, which goes for a city as much as a person. But the inevitability—even the ultimate healthiness—of change doesn’t mean we shouldn’t mourn the loss and celebrate the life of the places and institutions that have shaped our idea of the Triangle’s cultural life. We had our share of casualties this year, and whether they lost their footing among big development or naturally ran their course, we’re sending them off with both appreciation for what they did and excitement for the new roots their legacies will nourish.
Let’s start with one of the freshest wounds: In the fall, downtown Durham’s Beyù Caffè shocked its customers with the announcement that, beginning in 2019, it would no longer offer live music. Instead, owner Dorian Bolden wants to focus on the establishment’s food and coffee programs. Beyù was a significant home for jazz music (as well as some heavy doses of soul, funk, and R&B) in Durham, a place where up-and-comers and old favorites could rub shoulders for two sets. The end of live music at Beyù leaves a gaping hole in the entertainment offerings downtown and in the Durham jazz scene as a whole.
Not every club can be Carnegie Hall, which is certainly true of Deep South, a dive at the edge of downtown Raleigh. Open for a decade, the club was a low-key getaway, its black-and-red walls covered in lyrics selected and hand-painted by Raleigh luminaries. It hosted scores of eager bands on the rise year-round while also functioning as an essential Hopscotch host every year, and offered plenty of errata—Foo Fighters cover bands need a place to play, too. The club’s end is an increasingly familiar tale: big-wig developer (in this case, Greg Hatem) buys the block, raises rents, and longtime tenants flee.
In July, chef Phoebe Lawless startled the Triangle by announcing the sudden closing of both beloved bakery Scratch and year-old restaurant The Lakewood, which held its last day of service on July 29. The loss tasted even bitterer when, days after the closure was announced, The Lakewood was included among fifty nominees for Bon Appetit’s annual Hot 10 feature, a list of the ten best new restaurants in America. That same month, chef-restaurateur Scott Howell closed his iconic Durham fine-dining restaurant, Nana’s, after twenty-five years. Howell still owns three restaurants in Durham: NanaSteak, NanaTaco, and his latest, DeeLuxe Chicken, a fast-casual spot specializing in fried chicken and seafood.
Hillsborough’s Mystery Brewing Company closed the doors of its brewery and brewpub in October. Though it was a community fixture, and owner Erik Lars Myers said that the pub was profitable, the operation had too much debt to go on, robbing the Triangle of a vibrant performance venue as well as a place to drink local beer.
We also poured one out for All About Beer Magazine, which helped prime the tubes for the craft beer movement and, after a nearly four-decade run, abruptly folded in mid-October, leaving subscribers with lots of questions about missing issues and refunds. And Chapel Hill’s Allen & Son Barbeque quietly closed after almost fifty years in business, during which it earned a reputation as one of the top traditional ‘cue joints in the state.
While you’ve still got until next month to stock up on Durm apparel, Runaway, the definitive young-Durham fashion-and-music lifestyle brand we commemorated in our recent Indies Arts Awards, announced at the end of 2018 that this will be its final season. So long not just to its styles, but to its downtown storefront as a reliably hopping Third Friday destination.
Runaway wasn’t the only Indies Arts Awards winner we celebrated on their way out the door: Larry Wheeler, who helped elevate the national profile of and local engagement at the North Carolina Museum of Art, stepped down after a long tenure in November, to be replaced as director by Valerie Hillings. Meanwhile, heroic founding director Laura Ritchie retired from The Carrack Modern Art, Durham’s vital community gallery, catapulting that loss into a gain by turning over the helm to the estimable Saba Taj. There was no such silver lining with the end of SPECTRE Arts, the little white cube that could, which was the Carrack’s neighbor until last summer.
We’ve spilled copious tears and ink all year over the closure of Manbites Dog Theater, the producing company and venue that was a veritable living room for Durham theater artists since 1998—though you’ll find ample evidence of the seeds it planted and the energy of its artists in our “Biggest Gains” section. A loss in local theater we haven’t noted yet is the retirement of longtime News & Observer theater critic Roy C. Dicks, who signed off in August with a damn gracious admission that, while he applauds all the innovation in local theater, it doesn’t suit his more traditional tastes. That Dicks both had and acted on this insight adds to twenty years’ worth of written evidence of his thoughtful, sensitive stewardship of our theater.
Finally—and this is almost going to sound like a koan—you can’t really lose something you hardly had and didn’t want. WTF happened with Wahlburgers? After eons of local anticipation, the celebrity-brothers burger chain finally opened in Raleigh in May, and then closed without explanation seven months later, a “Do Not Enter” sign taped on the door by the Wake County Sherriff. The employee venting about bouncing checks, shoddy facilities, and crappy food is just starting to get aired out now.