Friday was St. Patrick’s Day and the second day of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. UNC played its opening game at 4 p.m.
For many Triangle bars and restaurants, it was a high point of the year for business.
Glenwood South was expected to be booming as usual. But around the corner on Jones Street, just a block from the fire that forced restaurants to evacuate Thursday night, owners and managers struggled Friday with the decision of whether they could open.
Jones and West streets, which give drivers access to the restaurants, were closed most of Friday. And while pedestrians could park and walk around the yellow tape and barricades, owners and managers knew it might keep customers away. Plus, when a crane fell in the midst of the fire, it landed on phone and cable lines that left some places without a working phone.
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“People don’t know we’re open,” Brian Amra, one of the owners of Tobacco Road Sports Cafe at the corner of Jones and West street, said Friday afternoon. “They can’t call to see if we’re open. They’re calling our other locations, thank God.”
Thursday night, the restaurant evacuated about 200 people, closing abruptly. It opened an hour later than normal Friday to clean up from the night before.
Amra said that the bar area was beginning to fill up Friday afternoon but that it wasn’t as packed as it normally would be.
“Normally by 2:30, we stop seating, we’re packed,” he said, referring to NCAA tournament time.
Across the street, the management team at 42nd Street Oyster Bar decided midday that it would open Friday night.
“Today, we’ve been going back and forth,” said Ryan Tyson, a manager at the restaurant. “Can we open? Can people come and get to us? Parking is going to be a challenge.”
There is parking in front of the restaurant, but another lot across the street is being used by police and firefighters.
Clouds Brewing, whose Jones Street building was the closest to the flames, was closed for lunch and hoped to open late afternoon.
“If they open it up, we’ll try to give it a run and see what happens,” said general manager Andy Tetterton.
By 4:30 p.m., the restaurant’s Facebook page reported that it was open for business.
Tetterton described Thursday night as “intense.” He said he walked outside, saw the early stages of the fire, which he called an “inferno,” turned around and told customers and employees to go home.
“All it took was one shift of wind, and we would have been right in the mess,” he said.
More, a restaurant across the parking lot, joined with Clouds to feed first-responders but decided to close Friday night and expected to be closed Saturday.
Scott Phillips, executive chef for JMR Kitchens, which owns More, said he was going to shut down the kitchen for the weekend to be on the safe side. The restaurant is closed Sundays anyway.
“If we’re closed for two days, it’s a weekend,” he said. “Everyone relies on Friday and Saturday to pay for the week.”
But like others, Phillips and Tetterton said it was fortunate that no one was hurt and that their buildings were secure.
“In the grand scheme of things, nobody got hurt. Everybody got out of here safe,” Tetterton said. “That’s more important than a few dollars. I think we got really lucky.”
Jessica Banov: 919-829-4831; @JessicaBanov