If you ask any UNC student or graduate about their college experience, Franklin Street will always come up in conversation. From buying game day gear at Shrunken Head to a late-night meal at Time-Out, Franklin Street is the epitome of a college town atmosphere.
But we could see an entirely different Franklin Street after the pandemic. However, many Franklin Street businesses have closed, temporarily and permanently, including Ms Mong, Lula’s, LOTSA and Perennial.
I spoke with Chris Carini, owner and head chef of Linda’s Bar and Grill, about the impact that COVID-19 has had on his business. Linda’s opened back up when students arrived, but Carini decided to close again on Aug. 24.
“We closed again because I knew it was better to live to fight another day," Carini said. "We’re going to reopen when it makes sense. I think it’s important for people to know Linda’s will be there for them when this madness ends, but also now when they need it the most. And I’m working on getting her back open."
Gov. Roy Cooper recently announced that the state would transition to Phase 3 of reopening, which allows bars to reopen. Even with the go-ahead to open, Carini will keep social distancing guidelines in place and is planning on starting an electric bike delivery service to expand Linda’s outreach.
Carini is just one of many owners on Franklin Street that is working hard to stay in business. Unlike big businesses, which received money from the government and have public stock, small business owners rely on the local economy for survival. A survey of more than 5,800 small businesses found that 43 percent temporarily closed as a result of the pandemic, while employment at these businesses was down by 39 percent since January. Even with the issuance of stimulus checks by the government, they still did not see their regular income.
Franklin Street businesses were hopeful that business would improve once students returned to campus. Initially, there was a rise in customers, but after multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 on campus, business slowed.
So, what can be done?
If you are still living in Chapel Hill, it is important to shop locally and help your favorite local businesses stay afloat. Another solution that would make a drastic impact would be for lawmakers to pass a bill that would help small business owners. We have a state legislature that claims to support entrepreneurism, but little has been done to support small businesses.
The issuance of stimulus checks by the federal government did almost nothing for small businesses. It is on the state of North Carolina to pass a law that helps these businesses make it through this pandemic. If not, in an election year where many issues are on the ballot, voters can voice their concerns by electing officials that will enact these changes.
Class of 2024
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