Breaking news from Chapel Hill: Students favor chicken over voting in municipal elections.

Raising Cane’s, the new resident of the Brockwell building at 101 East Franklin Street, had its grand opening on Tuesday, November 7. When the ribbon was cut at 9 a.m., there were already 200 people lined up outside. There was also a DJ. 

“Our first customer got here at 6:30 p.m. yesterday,” says Brian Stegall, regional vice president at Raising Cane’s. That dedicated customer spent the night in a tent, hoping to be one of 20 to get free chicken for a year.

Tuesday was also Election Day in Chapel Hill, with the mayorship and a majority of council seats up for grabs. And while students may not care much about the town council, the university is always on the minds of local politicians. UNC, a tax-exempt, state organization, doesn’t pay taxes on its massive land ownings in town, creating an annual headache for local officials. 

Much of the 2023 election conversation was centered around the character of Franklin Street and buildings like the Brockwell, a brick structure built in 1901 that was home to Spanky’s for more than 40 years before it closed in 2018. 

Around 5 p.m., a group of mostly blond young men, presumably a UNC acapella group, celebrated the next chapter of the Brockwell building’s story by belting an impassioned rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer” towards the then 70-person Raising Cane’s line. 

Poll greeters at the UNC Stone Center polling site, meanwhile, were deploying campaign literature, stuffed full of exciting endorsements and illustrious promises about zoning votes, to try to entice possible voters.

Credit: Photo by Angelica Edwards

In an entirely unscientific poll of 25 people in the middle of the Raising Cane’s line, INDY found that the majority of them were UNC students. And of those UNC students, only two had voted in the Chapel Hill municipal election.

“I know it’s a bad excuse, but I just didn’t have the time,” says one student as she waits in a 70-person line for chicken tenders. 

Poll greeters at the Stone Center reported a “zero minute” wait time for voters. 

The UNC voting district covers an area populated by around 8,500 undergraduate and graduate students. Preliminary results showed 447 ballots cast for mayor there.

Stegall says Raising Cane’s served about 4,000 people on opening day. 

At 10:30 p.m., the new mayor-elect was celebrating her win with a party on Franklin Street. And there was still a line out the door at Raising Cane’s. 

Reach Reporter Chase Pellegrini de Paur at Comment on this story at

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