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Chapel Hill staple Spanky's closes after 40 years on Franklin Street

Spanky's will close March 31.

After 40 years in business, Spanky’s Restaurant closed its doors on Saturday for the last time. 

The restaurant announced the closure on Thursday, said Greg Overbeck, co-owner of the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group which manages five area restaurants. 

“This is a business — we all love Spanky’s and we all hate to see it go, but as a business model it’s just not holding up anymore,” Overbeck said. “It’s been a decline of the last five or six years, and we’ve just seen it more and more.”

Located at the corner of Franklin and Columbia streets, Spanky's was well-known for its game day atmosphere, casual dining and caricatures of UNC celebrities and legends hanging on the walls. 

Overbeck cited a perceived lack of parking downtown and competition among restaurants in Chapel Hill as the primary obstacles Spanky’s faced. 

When it first opened in 1977, the restaurant's concept was unique, Overbeck said. But now, one can find the same iterations of the menu at 10 or 15 different restaurants, he said. 

Chapel Hill Restaurant Group is planning to open a new restaurant in the space in April. Overbeck said the group is not ready to unveil the name, menu or concept of the new restaurant. But he said it will be very affordable and attractive to students, businesspeople and families. 

Sophomore Claire Ashley fondly remembers visiting Spanky's in high school with her family. 

“In high school whenever my family and I would visit Chapel Hill, we would eat at Spanky’s because my dad loved the place, and it reminded him of his time at Chapel Hill,” she said. “Since he loved it, I grew to love it. And it became the place we would go for special meals when my family would visit. I'm sad to see a Chapel Hill staple close.” 

Fans of Spanky’s took to social media to comment on the restaurant’s closing, referencing days spent waiting tables, watching basketball and meeting significant others. But rather than being sad about the end of an era, Overbeck said he’s excited for the changes ahead. 

“It kind of reminds me when someone is older and they pass away. Rather than bemoan the fact that they’re gone, they instead celebrate their life,” Overbeck said. “And Spanky’s has had a long, successful life.”

Sophomore Adair Tompkins said she’s especially nostalgic about Spanky’s closing — the place where her parents met, her brother worked and she had her first restaurant job in Chapel Hill.  

But not everything that is nostalgic has a place in the future, she said. 

“I think that’s what Chapel Hill Restaurant Group is looking towards, how that space and that restaurant fits into Franklin Street and business in the future," Tompkins said.

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