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Franklin Street Mellow Mushroom construction postponed


Location of upcoming Chapel Hill Mellow Mushroom

When Karen Halsey and Kent Hodges made plans to open a new Mellow Mushroom in Chapel Hill, they hoped to have it up and running in time for the new school year.

But an unexpected sewer line has pushed that date back by at least four months, said Hodges, co-owner of the Wake Forest, Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill Mellow Mushroom restaurants.

“We were hoping to be open by August,” he said. “That’s not going to happen, obviously.”

The sewer line was found under the restaurant’s patio ­— which will be located where Ham’s used to be at 310 W. Franklin St. — has prevented the owners from moving forward in construction process.

The pipe serves both what will become the Mellow Mushroom and the Shortbread Lofts, which is also being developed, said Greg Feller, the public affairs administrator for Orange Water and Sewer Authority.

Feller said in an email that OWASA had reached an agreement with the property owners to relocate the sanitary sewer pipe.

“We understand the state has approved the sewer relocation plans,” he said in an email. “We are waiting for state approval of the water line improvements for these projects.”

Feller said OWASA does not keep track of privately-owned pipes.

“We don’t have maps of where people put in, or have put in privately-owned pipes,” he said. “We’re a public water utility and there’s no requirement that people give us that information.”

The last Mellow Mushroom in Chapel Hill closed in 2005.

Hodges said they hoped to apply for a building permit to begin construction by the end of June — something they can’t do until the pipeline is moved.

“We hope to start construction by the end of July, beginning of August,” he said. “Provided we don’t have any more setbacks.”

Lindsay Williams, a hairstylist at Salon 135, said she’s not sure the new restaurant would be very successful, because of the high competition for pizza restaurants on Franklin Street.

“When you get too many options it’s like — people can only eat so much pizza,” she said.

“If it was me, as a business person, I wouldn’t open a pizza place here,” Williams said.

But Hodges said he isn’t worried about competition.

“We feel like our product is as good as anybody’s,” he said. “But we also feel our atmosphere brings a lot to the table.”

Plans for the new Mellow Mushroom also include a patio with a live stage and garage doors on all sides, about 15 indoor televisions and a beer selection featuring mostly local breweries.

Hodges said they weren’t sure what this Mellow Mushroom’s artistic theme would be, but that it would probably focus on the ‘60s.

Hodges said they’d like to make the atmosphere appealing to sports fans.

“We know that Ham’s was a good spot to watch sporting events in the past,” he said. “We plan on it being the same kind of environment, just a little funky.”

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