Shop Talk

Charlie’s Pub still open, but owner’s moving on

While Charlie’s Pub & Grille continues to operate on Ninth Street (past more than one closing date), owner Mike Cole has already moved forward with a new and very different venture.

The last time I saw Cole, he was sipping a beer around 4 p.m. on a weekday in May at Charlie’s, which was then a fading business that no longer served food or took credit cards. Since that meeting, Cole said he has transitioned from closing down the business to enjoying it while he still has it as the second-generation owners of the building court new tenants.

Charlie’s has started taking credit cards again, serving food, booking bands and advertising specials, which are scheduled throughout the month of January.

According to Durham County documents, Keith Thompson and John Thompson own the building. In late 2013, Cole said he was told that the building’s owners are ready for a new tenant.

At first Cole said they wanted him out in early 2013, but Charlie’s has been allowed to stay longer. Charlie’s celebrated its 14thanniversary earlier this month. The owners of the building plan to subdivide the space, Cole said, and are working with a potential tenant who plans to put in a Waffle House.

A woman who answered John Thompson’s phone said they had no comment and hung up.

Meanwhile, Cole has opened a new retail venture, Carolina Consignment Shop on Broad Street in Durham, between Watts Grocery and the Oval Park Grille.

In anticipation of the bar’s closing, Cole sold his 5,000-square-foot Trinity Park house and needed help getting rid of his furniture. He approached Chelsea Barnhardt, who’s worked at Charlie’s for three years. Barnhardt refinishes furniture as a hobby, and her husband works in the furniture business in Burlington, Cole said.

“(Barnhardt) knew about furniture, so we started selling a bunch of my stuff,” Cole said.

They started the venture as equal partners, and Barnhardt organized and staged an estate sale at Cole’s house in the fall. They sold most of Cole’s furniture and the rest went to the consignment store, which opened at the end of November. Cole’s role is to find furniture, while Barnhardt manages the store.

The venture is also a plan B for another set of business owners.

Greg DeMarchi, co-owner of Oval Park Grille, said he had planned to put a wine bar in that space but decided to rent it out after spending a year of unsuccessfully trying to satisfy city parking requirements that involved subleasing nearby parking spots.

The consignment store offers estate sale services and has about 25 different vendors, Cole said.

Once the bar closes, Cole said, he’ll spend more time on the consignment shop. For now, he said, you’ll still find him at Charlie’s enjoying the regulars who have been coming there for years.

“It has always been my first love,” he said.