by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor, John Locke Foundation
Tuesday night brought sad news for the downtown Raleigh community. We learned that Linus & Pepper’s sandwich shop and Virgil’s Taco’s were permanently closing.
Owner Jon Seelbinder, founder of Local Icon Hospitality, made the announcement on Instagram:
This pandemic has dealt a crushing blow to our industry and the world as a whole. We have worked tirelessly through the shut down to come up with solutions for survival plans and ways to safely bring our team back to work.
With heavy hearts but clear minds, we’ve made the decision that our best path forward is to close this building and focus on our other locations.
The concepts in the Salisbury St. building are not easy to let go. Their namesakes were created as a nod to a charismatic niece (Pepper), a whimsical cat (Linus), and a mischievous childhood friend (Virgil).
To say I have been inspired by the hard work and dedication that the management team has put into making a run at things through the COVID shutdown would be an understatement.
Possible options for L&P and Virgil’s would allow us to fulfill delivery and take out orders at another location. We will make an announcement at the appropriate time if we choose to travel that path.
As of now, our other locations will reopen and we will pour our efforts into those for the time being.
Serving the Raleigh community over the last five years has truly been an honor, and it is our goal to do it even better going forward.
We love you Raleigh,
Linus & Pepper’s was one of the restaurants featured in my post on “Raleigh restaurants, before and after the shutdown order.” Shortly after the shutdown order, Seelbinder posted the following, and it’s worth reading again:
My heart breaks in pieces today. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life is commit to the decisions that we had to make today. Decisions we had to make within a swift few hours so that we could get folks to the front of the assistance line as quickly as possible. Like almost all of our friends in the industry, we were forced to shutter our doors and inform our work family that we wouldn’t be able to employ them for the foreseeable future. That’s a very hard thing to swallow when each one of those people’s livelihood literally depends on day to day operations. Living paycheck to paycheck is not always a choice but, unfortunately, is 100% a reality. As a leadership team, we are hustling to double and triple down our efforts to spin on some other revenue streams to press forward. Like many, we will provide curbside to-go food, delivery for catering/large orders, and beer/wine pick up and delivery. While we are completely unable to keep all of our work family employed, we will hopefully be able to pivot enough to provide them with the necessities of food and other comforts. We are currently planning daily “family” meals and looking for ways to participate in the ongoing fundraisers for industry employees. We are doing our best to help everyone navigate through the unemployment process and will dig for other ways to find them support. This is the real deal y’all. Your support is needed and it will be welcomed with gracious open arms. Our people are unemployed and our businesses are in dire straights. Please keep everyone in the industry in your thoughts and prayers. The only way to the other side is through. Onward we go….Jon
The news about the deaths of Linus & Pepper’s and Virgil’s followed fast on the heels of bad news of another of the downtown Raleigh restaurants featured in my post, Chuck’s. Last week, chef and owner Ashley Christensen announced that Chuck’s would be permanently closed and the space used by her adjacent restaurant, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey:
This pandemic has been devastating to our industry, and we have spent the last few weeks thinking through solutions for survival, and how to bring our team back to work again.
We’ve made the decision that our best path forward is to do that thoughtfully by closing Chuck’s permanently, and expanding Beasley’s Chicken + Honey into the former Chuck’s space. We are excited to pay homage to Chuck’s by bringing a few signature dishes over to the Beasley’s menu, including a burger, fries, and 2-3 shakes.
We love what we have built at Chuck’s over the past 8 1/2 years, and are grateful to have contributed to the downtown Raleigh community. While this decision is hard, we are optimistic for the future of our team, and our industry. We feel that we will have greater opportunity to bring more people back to work by expanding what we do at Beasley’s, and by continuing to evolve that restaurant’s offerings.
We have not yet decided on a reopening timeline at this time, as we continue to research and develop our safety protocols for staff and guests.
Thank you for the outpouring of thoughts and support during this time. We look forward to feeding you again soon!
-Ashley Christensen and Kait Goalen
As reported by IndyWeek,
Christensen temporarily closed her six restaurants on March 24 and laid off 90% of AC Restaurant’s 280 employees. While the restaurants have been closed for service, Christensen has kept her kitchens busy with a series of weekly dinner kits and a fundraising aperitif collaboration. In her statement, she noted that she has not yet determined a reopening timeline for the restaurants.
I want people to understand that these losses aren’t just places where you grab a bite to eat. They are employers of many people, people who as explained above are living paycheck to paycheck. They are run by conscientious owners who care very much for their employees and who feel these losses deeply.
And even as Gov. Cooper stubbornly keeps his shutdown in place well beyond its original expiration date (April 29, for those who remember), they have been trying to help the people whose needs they’re most familiar with.
In April, Seelbinder started a Care.Box partnership with Wine to Water (W|W), a Boone-based international clean-water charity that was started by a former Raleigh bartender and musician. Wine to Water’s mission is “supporting life and dignity for all through the power of clean water.”
Founder Doc Hendley “dreamed of building an organization that fought water-related death and disease” and “started raising money to fight this water epidemic the best way I knew how, by pouring wine and playing music.” Through his efforts, his charity grew to reach many countries around the world. In 2009, he was named one of the 10 CNN Heroes of the Year.
W|W now includes an initiative to help fight COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic, Colombia, East Africa, Nepal, and the U.S. On April 17, W|W announced on Instagram:
This has been a busy week! We started a new Care.Box partnership in Raleigh with @jonseel & @localiconhospitality and have already given out 2,000 meals to local service industry workers that have lost their jobs.
We have also transformed our water filter factory in Tanzania to a hand-washing station factory and helped over 11,000 people get access to improved hygiene and sanitation.
If you are in the Raleigh area and would like to help feed local individuals/families please go to give.winetowater.org/careboxraleigh
If you would like to support our global coronavirus response please go to winetowater.org/covid19support
OR if you would like to volunteer or help donate food or other items for our Care.Boxes please email us at [email protected]
Stay safe and have a great weekend everyone!!!
Christensen, meanwhile, had announced the creation of the Triangle Restaurant Workers Relief Fund on March 18, the day after Cooper’s shutdown order closed bars and dine-in restaurants. I had linked to that news as one of the many examples of “North Carolina’s deep resources of human ingenuity” finding all kinds of ways to help, which I highlighted in my research brief about free people being “The Ultimate Resource in the battle against the coronavirus.”
For those of us who care about small businesses and local restaurants, the news is increasingly full of heartache. We feel like Gertrude in Hamlet after learning of Cordelia’s death:
One woe doth tread upon another’s heel,
So fast they follow.
We can only hope Cooper ends his shutdown ASAP and gives the remaining restaurants, crippled though they must be, a fighting chance.