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New Spanish tapas bar Próximo to fill empty Franklin Street space, open date unclear

137 East Franklin Street, former location of Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe, will house the new Spanish tapas bar.

Próximo, a Spanish tapas and wine bar, will replace Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe at 173 E. Franklin St. The new restaurant, owned by Chapel Hill Town Council member Elizabeth Sharp and her husband, Brandon Sharp, has not begun construction and does not yet have an expected open date.

Próximo is inspired by the Sharps' trip to Spain after they got married, Elizabeth Sharp said. She said tapas were their favorite part of Spanish food and the casual, vibrant and dynamic feel of the dining experience felt right for the space on Franklin Street.

The Sharps were connected to the landlords of 173 E. Franklin St. through mutual friends, Elizabeth Sharp said, and the landlords shared their vision for the space. She said acquiring the space was the beginning of the restaurant's development.

Elizabeth Sharp said she and her husband are passionate about providing good food and a pleasant environment for people.

“We have about 1,000 different restaurants living in our head at any time,” Elizabeth Sharp said.

The Sharps are also the co-owners of Hawthorne & Wood, a fine dining restaurant and bar, and Bluebird, a French bistro, both located in Chapel Hill.

“When they've opened other spaces, they've brought those spaces to life,” Paula Gilland, owner of The Purple Bowl, said. “I think that area could use a little revitalization, and I think that they’ll have the expertise to do it well.”

The head chef of Próximo will be George Colom, the current sous chef of Hawthorne & Wood. Elizabeth Sharp said Colom was an easy decision because he has shown great leadership and talent.

In an email, Brandon Sharp said the menu is still under development but it will consist of both traditional and modern tapas.

Chapel Hill needs more interesting expressions of culinary experiences, Renu Mathias, owner of the Chapel Hill-based Renu Mathias Interiors, said, and the Sharps saw that as an opportunity to open Próximo. She also said the wine bar is a feature that has been lacking in Chapel Hill and there needs to be more of them.

“I think that tapas-style cuisine experiences in restaurants is inherently a gathering type of experience, and so I think it brings that convivial vibe,” Mathias said.

As a vegetarian, Gilland said she is excited to see what vegetarian options will be on the menu and try them.

"Given the proximity, I believe that you will see a lot of undergraduates who maybe want to hop in and have a quick small bite without breaking the bank," Mathias said.

Mathias and Gilland both said it is important that Franklin Street is not a space just for college students, but also one that caters to families and older audiences. They said Próximo will create that atmosphere.

Elizabeth Sharp said she and Brandon Sharp are not trying to target any particular demographic, but instead are just looking to open a quality establishment that will be a positive addition to Franklin Street.

“I’m going to trust that their planning to bring [Próximo] to this particular space has been well-thought-out, and they seem to do everything with a lot of intentionality and thoughtfulness,” Gilland said. “I’m optimistic that it will bring everyone together just the way they want it.”


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