Sadlack’s owner says time is running out for the Hillsborough Street landmark

vbridges@newsobserver.comMay 1, 2013 

— The clock is ticking for Sadlack’s Heroes.

Owner Rose Schwetz said she plans to close the Hillsborough Street landmark if she doesn’t find a new location soon.

“If I don’t find something by the first of June, I am going to quit,” Schwetz said about the business that has been in its current location since 1973. “I am just going to close. I am sick of looking.”

Sadlack’s is one of a handful of businesses that must move by Dec. 31 to make way for a 125-room hotel set to be constructed on a 1.3-acre Hillsborough Street site across the street from the N.C. State University Bell Tower.

NCSU announced in 2011 that Bell View Partners and The Bernstein Cos. would build the hotel along with ground floor retail and a restaurant on the site that includes Sadlack’s and a retail center occupied by a several small businesses, including The Groom Room Barbershop, the Bell Tower Mart, the Soo Café, Buddha’s Belly and Schoolkids Records.

The university owns the property, but Bell View Partners is working on a lease and purchase options, said Joe Whitehouse, a partner with the group of Raleigh developers. The Bernstein Cos. is a Washington real estate firm. Whitehouse declined to comment on other aspects of the development, saying he would be in a better position to answer questions in 30 to 60 days.

“It is just not appropriate for me to give you anything because there are still so many moving pieces,” Whitehouse said.

Owners of the Bell Tower Mart and the Soo Café said they planned to relocate, but hoped to return to the block after construction was completed.

Stephen Judge, owner of Schoolkids Records, said he hopes to find a slightly larger space to accommodate a coffee house and bar.

“I’ll find something. I am not worried about it,” Judge said.

A Groom Room representative declined to comment. Jay Long, owner of Buddha’s Belly, said he planned to relocate but wasn’t sure where.

Schwetz thought last week that she had found a new home for Sadlack’s, but the deal fell through at the last minute.

“I just had a little fit in the kitchen,” said Schwetz, 71. “I was a little hurt, a little upset. But what can you do?”

The challenge, Schwetz said, is finding a space that offers all the amenities that contribute to Sadlack’s success, including a convenient location, adequate parking, a patio, and the ability to feature musicians. Schwetz has looked at three different spots on Hillsborough Street, and has turned her attention to downtown.

Schwetz said she would retire if she has to, but she can’t imagine her life without her eight- to 10-hour work day.

“I do better under the pressure of having some place to go every day,” she said. “That is my life. How to give that up quickly is really difficult.”

Schwetz purchased Sadlack’s Heroes in 1984. The hangout, music venue and sandwich shop, with notable vegetarian options, has operated out of the building since 1973, under different sets of owners, she said.

About seven years ago, Schwetz gave the business a makeover worth more than $250,000 to improve the kitchen and more than double the seating.

“We took the entire building down to the ground and rebuilt it,” she said.

Schwetz said the university agreed to buy out the remaining three years of her lease with a payment that more than covered the cost of the renovation. She declined to provide a specific number.

“I haven’t told anybody that,” she said.

Just before 5 p.m. at the end of the rainy Monday, many of the seats at Sadlack’s bar were already occupied.

“The food is good, the beer is cheap, and the conversation is always interesting,” said Jackie Chambliss, 36, of Cary, who discovered Sadlack’s about two years ago when she was an NCSU student.

Doug DeBastiani, 50, who held a beer in one hand and a cigar in the other, and Ronnie Monroe held court with other regulars on the concrete patio. They described Sadlack’s as a sanctuary where various aspects of the community come together to eat, drink and listen to music at a legendary location that has hosted Ryan Adams, Kenny Roby and Chatham County Line.

“None of us know where to go after this,” said Monroe, 53. “It’s just a musical realm that should never have this fate.”

Bridges: 919-829-8917

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