He’s Not Here listed for sale after owner’s retirement

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After years of financial worry, Chapel Hill’s iconic He’s Not Here has embraced its casual, beer garden image and, according to its management, made a turn around.

Soon, the business known for its laid-back atmosphere and distinctive blue cup will add new ownership to its list of updates.

Owner Dave Kitzmiller, 76, came out of his retirement in Nova Scotia to return to the bar in 2010 after three years of declining profits.

But bar manager Fleming Fuller said the bar is doing well again, and Kitzmiller wanted to return to his retirement, his Canadian home and his veterinarian wife — so he put the business on the market.

“Sales are up, we’re profitable again, he came out of retirement and got us here,” Fuller said.

The bar is listed for sale on BizQuest.com. An initial ad was placed on Craigslist and taken down to give the realtor time to review the flood of interest it generated, Fuller said. The bar’s asking price is $165,000, and the BizQuest ad lists its gross revenue as $400,000.

Fuller said though official numbers are not yet back from the accountant, he estimates that the bar’s sales increased between 20 and 30 percent in the past year.

Fuller said that the turnaround happened partly because of changes he himself recently made, like installing new murals and playing up the bar’s appeal as a beer garden.

“With Kitzmiller working on his 40th year owning the bar, it was time for a change. He noticed that, we noticed that, and he will remain someone who shaped students’ social lives for decades,” John Bruner, the assistant manager of the bar, said in an e-mail.

Fuller said Kitzmiller has returned to Nova Scotia and is enjoying his retirement, and he is not available for comment.

Though he said he couldn’t disclose whether any offers are on the table, Fuller said that the realtor has said the property is generating great interest and he expects that it will sell quickly.

Several patrons — including UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral candidates Scott Parrott and Laura Meadows — said they hope that the new owners do not change the bar itself.

“It’s got kind of a dive bar atmosphere,” Meadows said. “Don’t change anything — that’s key.”

UNC graduate Kathryn Lee and her boyfriend Nathan Strup, who have been visiting the bar since the early 2000’s, agreed.

“It’s just such a Chapel Hill staple,” Lee said.

Fuller said most of the people who have shown interest in the property have a personal connection to it — for many, it was their regular college hang-out. He said that he doesn’t expect them to alter its appeal.

Both he and Bruner did note that a new owner could bring new capital and potential improvements to the bar.

“I don’t anticipate too many changes,” Fuller said. “It’s a bit of a dive, but it’s got its charm and it’s irreplaceable.”

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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