A pioneer in downtown Raleigh nightlife is shutting its doors, as owner Liz Masnik sells The Borough to pursue a passion for saving animals. The Borough will remain open until the end of January. On Feb. 1, it will begin the transformation into Hadley’s, closing for approximately a month of renovations before reopening the first week of March. A sandwich-and-soup shop with cocktails, Hadley’s will aim to retain some of The Borough’s best traits.
Opened in 2006 at the corner of Morgan and Dawson streets, The Borough has long been a popular hangout, thanks to a casual, familial atmosphere and menu items ranging from the Dizzy’s Bent Trumpet salad to the Pearodactyl sandwich (that is, sliced pear, turkey and melted cheddar on grilled sourdough). Its spicy ranch dressing and spiced fries have inspired social media eulogies since yesterday’s announcement.
A decade ago, the downtown landscape was quite different. There may not have been tumbleweeds rolling through the streets at night, but there was certainly no talk of DrunkTown, either. The Raleigh Times had just opened a couple of months earlier, and there were one or two other nightspots, but that was it.
The evolution of downtown “was a palpable change,” Masnik says. “It’s not often you get to see such a significant change over a relative short period of time.”
Of course, in 2006 Masnik didn’t realize she was opening a city icon.
“Oh, no! I was just concerned with getting the doors open, period,” she says. “When we first opened, it was almost all just people we knew who were coming in. Whenever strangers came in during the first few years, I always wondered how they knew about us. We opened before social media, so it was all just word of mouth and occasional ads in newspapers.”
One group that discovered The Borough early and helped establish it as a Raleigh fixture was the gay community.
“We were embraced by the gay community pretty much from the beginning,” Masnik says. “I can’t even express my gratitude for that. So many people have been so loyal for so long.”
Masnik got an inkling of how much The Borough meant to people when the federal courts issued the ruling that gay marriage was legal.
“It was on a Friday, and Fridays of course are usually busy, but that night was just insane,” Masnik remembers. “People got the news and said, ‘Let’s go celebrate.’ They chose to come to The Borough. So many people wanted to be with people who cared about them. That was a big moment for everyone, but it was a big moment for me in recognizing what our place meant to people, that people came there to celebrate such an important event.”
Such loyalty made Masnik’s decision a difficult one, but for her, the time was right.
“I hate that it affects so many people so strongly,” she says. “I’m not that far from turning 40. The business is good. But I want to study for the LSAT and go to law school and become an animal welfare lawyer.”
Masnik shares living space with three cats, three dogs and a boyfriend: “Anyone who knows me knows how crazy I am about animals. It’s my thing,” she says. “I’m always rescuing dogs.”
She also mentions the possibility of starting a family in the future, noting “that would be hard to do and run a bar the way I work.”
Although it wasn’t an easy decision, Masnik is excited about her future. Kevin Barrett and Drew Schenck—the duo bringing Hadley’s to The Borough space—are excited, too. Hadley’s will serve gourmet sandwiches and offer a full bar with lots of classic drinks, says Barrett.
“We appreciate The Borough and will try to find some subtle way to honor what it meant to Raleigh,” Barrett says. “We intend to be a bar that also serves food, good food, kind of like The Borough was.”
It won’t be a whiskey bar but “a full bar that serves proper drinks and lots of custom cocktails, because they’re fun,” Barrett says.
Barrett, who has worked at Foundation for seven years, is the drinks guy. Schenck, who founded the original Remington Grill in Cary a couple of decades ago and subsequently RallyPoint Sports Grill in Cary, is the food guy.
“We’re going to use La Farm and Neomonde bakeries for our bread,” Schenck says. “We’ll use high-end meats and serve scratch-made soups.” They plan to open at 11 a.m., and serve food until closing at 2 a.m.
Hadley’s takes its name from Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. The bar will have a subtle theme inspired by the Lost Generation of the ’20s and the Parisian years of expatriates such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Schenck says they hope to keep some of The Borough’s employees on staff, which is one reason they’re trying to get renovations turned around so quickly. They hope to minimize the amount of time those employees are out of work, as some have been there nearly since The Borough’s beginning. Again, that’s the kind of loyalty the place inspired.