Kipos Greek Taverna shut its doors in mid-March to comply with Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order, which prohibited dine-in restaurant service to slow the spread of the coronavirus. What was meant to be a temporary decision is now a permanent one — the restaurant's Franklin Street location is closed for good.
Luckily for those who love Kipos, the restaurant's owners plan to reopen in a new Chapel Hill location.
Part of the hospitality company Giorgios Group, which has 11 other restaurants, Kipos has been on Franklin Street for seven years. Owner Giorgios Bakatsias said the group plans to share details regarding the new location soon, with hopes of opening by late summer or early fall.
“Kipos is a very special restaurant for Giorgios Group. It’s a celebration of our Greek heritage and the healthy and delicious food ways that we learned from our mother, grandmother and ancestors,” Bakatsias said.
The decision to close the Franklin Street property follows lease negotiations since March and is a “direct result” of having to temporarily close, Bakatsias said.
“As it became clear that we would not be able to negotiate a favorable situation considering months of closure, we began looking at our options, and discovered one that we are very excited about,” he said. “We have had great success with most of the landlords of our properties, but in this case, we were not offered terms which would have aided us at all in this devastating time of economic loss.”
Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich said this type of economic pressure is being felt by many local businesses right now, including her own personal chef and catering company. The restaurant and tourism industry is crucial to Orange County, she said, with the industry comprising close to 300 restaurants and providing 2,000 jobs — most of which were shut down and lost due to stay-at-home orders.
“As we start thinking about how we’re going to open again though, what does that mean for the next step of these small businesses? How many of them are going to be able to open? It concerns me that we’re going to lose a lot of these restaurants because they won’t be able to open at 50 percent capacity. It won’t work for them,” Rich said.
Rich said the county is trying to help these businesses, through grant and loan programs as well as $2.6 million of proposed COVID-19 relief funding. Next week, Rich said the commissioners will be discussing how to put some of that money toward small businesses, as well as discussing housing recovery payments and eviction diversion programs.
As Orange County reopens, Rich said a large part of recovery efforts will include providing financial assistance to small businesses.
On Kipos’ website, a memo addressed “Dear Friends and Family” announced the decision to relocate Kipos, which means garden in Greek, and encouraged guests to follow Kipos’ social media accounts for updates on the reopening.
“In order to continue to nurture the bellies and souls of our community we need our home to align with the current business climate,” the announcement states. “We look forward to meeting up in the garden soon.”
For rising UNC senior Erica Brenner, reading this new announcement was a huge relief. Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Brenner has not been in Chapel Hill the last few weeks due to stay-at-home orders, but said she was devastated when she heard from friends that Kipos was closing.
Brenner said she is “probably Carolina’s biggest Kipos fan”: She’s spent both birthdays in Chapel Hill at Kipos with friends and family, frequently orders takeout and plans to have her graduation dinner there next year. Whenever her family visits, she said they refuse to leave Chapel Hill without eating at Kipos at least once.
Needless to say, Brenner was happy to know there will still be a Kipos in Chapel Hill when she returns.
“It was very difficult for me to go from a place that had an insane amount of incredible restaurants to a place that feels very small like Chapel Hill,” Brenner said. “Kipos is probably one of the best restaurants we’ve ever been to in literally our entire lives. Not only that, the quality of food and service you get there is absolutely incredible for what you’re paying — it’s by far my favorite restaurant in all of Chapel Hill.”
Despite Kipos' own happy ending, for Rich, the uncertainty of how and when the county will fully reopen makes her fear many restaurants may not be able to reopen.
“I don’t personally think we’re going to see a rush in Orange County for people to be in restaurants and bars right away. I think we live in a really educated community and I think the population of folks here understand this is not going away,” she said. “Everything comes back — we lived through ’01 and ’08. It does come back, but I think this one's going to hit hard and take quite some time before we get back to what we considered normal six months ago.”
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