Chapel Hill News

Restaurant will fill longtime West Franklin Street vacancy

Lou Moshakos, president and owner of LM Restaurants, which operates Carolina Ale House
Lou Moshakos, president and owner of LM Restaurants, which operates Carolina Ale House Submitted

Carolina Ale House is cooking up plans for the long-vacant Yates Motor Co. building on West Franklin Street.

The chain could open an 8,600-square-foot restaurant could open next year at 419 W. Franklin St. if everything goes as planned, spokeswoman Mindy Stroupe said. LM Restaurants, a Raleigh management company affiliated with Carolina Ale House restaurants, signed a lease last month, she said.

Lou Moshakos, president and owner of LM Restaurants, has wanted to come to Chapel Hill for some time but waited for the right location, Stroupe said. West Franklin Street has blossomed into a busy area with lots of good restaurants, and the company expects to be successful there, she said.

“He doesn’t just pick any location. He waits for that A-plus location,” Stroupe said.

The company is drawing up plans now and will have more details in a few months, she said.

Landlord Joe Riddle is a Fayetteville real estate investor and UNC alumnus who also owns four adjacent parcels, including a public parking lot leased to the town of Chapel Hill.

Riddle paid $1.675 million for the Yates Motor Co. property in 2004, but his planned mix of high-end retail and residential uses fell through. County land records now show the property is assessed for tax purposes at $786,669.

The building opened in 1945 as Julian Caston Motor Co. and was sold to the Yates family in 1955. New owners bought it in 1997 and changed the name to University Chrysler Plymouth. It’s been mostly vacant since 2003.

In November 2011, Occupy movement protesters and anarchists broke in and briefly held the building until Chapel Hill Police Department tactical officers armed with assault rifles raided the place. Seven people were arrested, and the raid ignited public outcry, months of debate and changes in police policies.

Riddle did not return calls seeking comment about the new restaurant. In previous interviews, he has said he was keeping the property vacant until the right tenant came along. In the last few years, the building’s storefront windows have hosted the Windows on Chapel Hill art installation series.

Chapel Hill would be the 14th location in North Carolina for LM Restaurants, Stroupe said. There are 23 Carolina Ale House restaurants scattered across the Southeast.

The restaurant is known for having multiple sporting events airing simultaneously on dozens of TV screens and its game area, which typically includes pool tables and video games. Stroupe said the exact details have not been worked out.

The restaurant’s food ranges from traditional bar fare, such as burgers and wings, to steaks and salmon. Everything is made from scratch, Stroupe said.

“We like to think of ourselves as better than the average sports bar,” she said.

Although Carolina Ale House will be a short walk from the Carolina Brewery, Stroupe said it’s a different type of restaurant and they welcome the competition. They may even put some Carolina Brewery beers on tap, she said.