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Community savors final drinks during 'Linda's Last Stand'

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Customers stand in Linda's Bar and Grill on Friday, January 5.

On Tuesday, Christopher Carini, the owner of Linda’s Bar and Grill, announced that the restaurant would be closing after 47 years in Chapel Hill due to a variety of factors including debt and legal troubles.

That night, people flocked to the bar to say goodbye and continued to do so until it closed on Friday. Throughout the week, Linda’s wooden booths were full and lines out the door stretched down the street.

On Wednesday, Patrick Wiginton hosted his last trivia session in the restaurant's basement, called the Downbar. The Downbar was full of trivia players sitting in booths, on the floor or standing by the bar.

Wiginton, who said that Linda’s was like his second home, had been a regular since 2011, and began hosting Wednesday night trivia in 2021.

He said that he tried to keep his last rounds of trivia as normal as possible, but the music round consisted of sad songs — a reflection of how he how felt about the restaurant's closure.

The last song of the music round, “Closing Time” by Semisonic, was sung by patrons in the crowded restaurant.

Wiginton said it felt good that people received his last trivia well, an experience that was meaningful because of the community it created.  

The past week has felt like a celebration of life, Wiginton said, with a wide variety of people returning to the bar one last time before it closed, including former bartenders who shared photos from their time working there.

“It’s welcoming to everybody, and that’s why so many people throughout the years enjoyed and loved the place — because you felt welcomed there,” Wiginton said.

On Friday night, Kirsten Vollmer, who was a bartender at Linda’s in 1993, returned with her friend Natalie Knowles

Despite the crowd, Vollmer was invited behind the bar and discovered that traditions she’d taken part in had been maintained for the past 30 years by the current bartenders. 

Linda’s has always been eclectic, according to Vollmer, and earnest, according to Knowles.

“I don’t come back to Linda’s often, but right now it feels like back then,” Vollmer said.

The bar didn't change, but it never became stale, Brooks Fuller, a UNC alumnus and current faculty member at Elon University, said.

According to Fuller, Linda’s catered to everybody, from students to professionals to people in the service industry, and was a communal and heartfelt space.

“It's also one of those places where I remember first feeling like a member of the larger Chapel Hill community and not just a student going to a bar,” he said.

Alita Miller, a first-year doctoral student, has been attending Linda’s karaoke nights since she came to UNC in August. She said that karaoke was a good way to get to know the members of her cohort outside of classes.

On Friday, she went to Linda’s with a group of friends, wearing a handmade hat in the shape of a tombstone that read “R.I.P. Linda’s” and “#lindaslaststand,” a hashtag which the restaurant printed on menus throughout the week.

That night, instead of the regularly-scheduled karaoke, Carini played music for people to dance to until the Downbar ran out of liquor to serve.

“[We were] trying to go out the way that the bar would want— just being there, having a good time, enjoying good company, sharing the memories of it,” Wiginton said.

Around 10 p.m. on Friday, with Semisonic playing once again, Carini announced that the Downbar would be closing and thanked the crowd for their support during his ownership.

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Since Carini's announcement, building owners Kim Scott and her mother Linda Williams, the restaurant's namesake, said that they are searching for a new owner to take over.

If Linda's reopens, Wiginton said that customers making the time and effort to go back to Linda’s could impact whether the local bar closes again or remains open.

“I hope that anybody that potentially buys the bar and reopens it and updates it just listens to regulars, just listens to people that made it Linda’s over the past 47 years,” Wiginton said.

@eliza.benbow

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com


Eliza Benbow

Eliza Benbow is the 2023-24 lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer university editor. Eliza is a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and creative writing, with a minor in Hispanic studies.