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Future of Linda's unclear as closure may not be permanent

20240105_Tillman_lifestyle-lindas-community-last-week

Customers stand in Linda's Bar and Grill for trivia on Wednesday, January 3. The restaurant is slated to permanently close on Friday, January 5.

Despite announcing that it would be closing its doors for good on Jan. 5, Linda's Bar and Grill may not be closing permanently.

Kim Scott is the daughter of Linda Williams, the restaurant's namesake and original owner who owns the East Franklin Street building that houses the restaurant. Scott said she and her mother have been working to find a new owner to reopen the bar.

Christopher Carini, who announced the restaurant's closure on Jan. 2, acted as the owner and proprietor of Linda's until Friday. He bought the Linda's corporation in 2011. 

Scott said she and her mother found out about the restaurant's closure through The Daily Tar Heel's reportingMany non-managerial staff were not aware of the restaurant's impending closure last week until the DTH's initial reporting on the closure.

"It was very shocking that he didn't call us after 13 years and say, 'Hey, this is what I'm doing,'" Scott said

Linda's Bar and Grill has served the UNC and Chapel Hill communities for almost 50 years. It opened in 1976 on Columbia Street, and currently sits on East Franklin Street.

Carini said "a slew of things," beginning with the COVID-19 pandemic, caused the restaurant to go into debt. His lease on the restaurant's building is unfinished and, on Friday morning, Scott announced that her and her mother were looking for someone to take it over, rather than closing permanently like Carini announced.

Carini also started a GoFundMe for the restaurant in October — which raised $35,125 of a $135,000 goal. Community members continued donating after he announced the closure. He said the restaurant "turned the corner" after the GoFundMe was created. According to Carini, this money went to continuing business operations and aiding the restaurant's operations. 

"I've been fighting, trying to stay open since COVID started," he said.

Carini said he got to a point where he realized he could not cover last week's bills, inventory and employee wages. In order to pay his staff and continue normal business operations he said there was no way for him to move forward as the restaurant's owner.

He said that UNC students leaving Chapel Hill for winter break halted the uptick in business the restaurant experienced this fall.

"Three weeks of nothing is three weeks of nothing," he said.

Scott said she has been contacted by multiple interested community members and UNC alumni who want to buy the restaurant and take over the lease. Both Carini and Scott said there are necessary legal steps before a new owner can re-open Linda's, but did not provide specifics.

Though Carini experienced difficulties owning Linda's since the pandemic, Scott said she thinks he has done everything in his power to "keep at it." She said he has worked to make sure his staff were paid and the transition goes smooth. 

Scott said she spent last week at Linda's talking to community members about their memories of the restaurant — even alumni who remember the Columbia Street location.

"I'm just grateful and thankful that alumni from Carolina have wanted to come and step forward," she said.

Since the announcement of Linda's closure, the Chapel Hill community rushed to have one last meal or drink at the beloved Franklin Street institution. It was packed all week.

The news that Linda's would not be permanently closing came just a few hours before a planned final night of karaoke — a celebration the restaurant called Linda's Last Stand on menus and on its social media — officially began. On Friday night, Linda's sold out of its food and drink by 10 p.m. and did not end up holding karaoke.

Carini held an "Irish wake" for the restaurant all week and many longtime patrons of the restaurant, members of the Chapel Hill and UNC communities and friends of Carini came to Linda's one last time.

"If I have a goal left, if I have one thing left to do is try and keep Linda's together," he said.

Two college friends — David Leder and David Britt — travelled to Linda's one last time on Friday afternoon. The two attended UNC together and now live in Raleigh and Greensboro respectively.

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"It’s been part of the tapestry of Chapel Hill," Leder said.

Scott said that when she told patrons last week that Linda's may not close permanently, they were overjoyed and made her sit down and "tell them all about it."

"There's so many people that love to keep this open," she said.

For now, the Linda's website reads: "Thanks for a great 47 years Chapel Hill."

@wslivingston_

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com


Walker Livingston

Walker Livingston is the 2024 enterprise managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer city & state editor and assistant city & state editor. Walker is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and American studies, with a minor in data science. 

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