The Library, a bar and club on Franklin Street, has closed after nearly 18 years of service. The establishment was a Chapel Hill staple where students and residents gathered and socialized pre-pandemic.
“It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the closing of the Library," the establishment wrote in a statement on Instagram. "We appreciate every single person that has been part of our journey and became part of our family. We love you all.”
The statement also said the business is being forced to shut down to make space for a national brand.
AJ Tama, the owner of The Library, said he had to let go of his staff after the business was forced to shut down in March 2020 due to Gov. Roy Cooper's shut down of N.C. bars and restaurants.
Since his business also did not serve food, Tama said he had to keep The Library closed longer to abide by Cooper's restrictions.
“To make it through the pandemic, even with our ups and downs and finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, we were super excited to be back, but unfortunately that’s not what happened," Tama said.
He received an outpouring of support from thousands of customers on Facebook and Instagram, he said, in response to the staple being forced to shut down.
Godwin Dooley, who graduated from UNC in 2020, said the closure announcement caught her off guard because she often visited the bar with her friends.
“Because we didn’t have an LDOC for the spring semester, a whole bunch of people went out," Dooley said. "It was my last memory there, especially with my classmates."
Dooley also said the loss of The Library is detrimental to communities of color in Chapel Hill because it was a spot to congregate, and now they may have to go to bars in Durham to do so.
Natalia Perez-Segnini, a 2014 UNC graduate, said she bartended there from 2012 through 2014. She was disappointed, she said, to see that the establishment would be replaced by a cookie-cutter national chain.
“The Library was a melting pot of people, cultures, interests, minds and everything else," Perez-Segnini said. "It was a neighborhood bar that fostered an inclusive and friendly environment for everyone."
Tama said the establishment was going to renew its lease before the pandemic, and he was planning on using the time to renovate the space and reopen. There had been disagreements, however, between two landlords on whether or not there would be a lease renewal.
The Library was ultimately denied a renewal without explanation, he said, and was told that the landlords wanted a national brand with a national leasing office to take its spot.
“It is very difficult to own a business on Franklin Street," Tama said. "It’s very hard to maintain a high overhead and high rental rate. All these people who’ve had their businesses close, it’s disappointing."
He also said he and his team have invested significant capital in renovating the current space, with zero gain from that investment. Tama will ideally reopen in an alternate location, he said.
“I hope whatever national chain replaces The Library understands what stood before it," Perez-Segnini said.
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