Beloved breakfast spot Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen could reopen this month after fire

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen in Chapel Hill suffered a fire in June. Owner David Allen expects to reopen by July 20.
Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen in Chapel Hill suffered a fire in June. Owner David Allen expects to reopen by July 20.

The sun will rise again, and soon so will Sunrise Biscuits in Chapel Hill.

The biscuit-making landmark suffered a fire last month on June 21 and has been closed ever since. Owner David Allen said the building is in the midst of repairs and could be opened by July 20 if permits and renovations go according to schedule.

Sunrise was closed at the time of the fire, its power having been knocked out from a strong storm in Chapel Hill the night before. A tree had been knocked down by the wind, Allen said, breaking a power line. As the line was being repaired the next day, there was an electrical surge, which caused the panel box in Sunrise to catch fire, Allen said.

“The fire itself was relatively minor because of the quick action from the electrical workers; a lineman saw the smoke and called 911,” Allen said. “No one was in the building at the time. We had closed that morning because there was no power, and the staff had just left.”

Allen said the 500-square-foot building will need to be rewired, and that the restaurant’s computer system, multiple refrigerators and the heating and cooling system need to be replaced. He estimates the loss at $70,000, but said he anticipates most to be covered by insurance.

“We’re motivated to be back in business as quickly as possible,” Allen said.

This is the second fire in Sunrise’s history, the first occurring at the original location in Henderson in 1977. That one was also an electrical fire, but somehow it ended up being a boon for business. The fire led to a surprising kind of advertising.

“We were open only a month and really struggling; no one knew what a breakfast was,” Allen said. “Then one day there were flames coming out of the top of the roof. The fire department was next door, so they reacted quickly. But it ended up on the front page of the local newspaper. After that sales were good, everyone knew who we were.”

Allen said he’s been paying employees since Sunrise has been closed and that if the restaurant had to be closed, the middle of the summer was the best time.

“This is our slowest time of the year,” Allen said. “But we hate the fact that we’re not serving customers and that our employees don’t have that job to come to.”

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.