Durham cocktail bar transforms into pop-up burger bar amid COVID-19 shutdown

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The owners of downtown Durham's Kingfisher will celebrate the craft cocktail bar's one year anniversary this week and is looking ahead to the business's new concept as a pop-up burger bar.



QueenBurger is slated to open in Kingfisher's backyard on E. Chapel Hill St. in mid-August.

Owners Sean Umstead and wife Michelle Vanderwalker are transforming the parking lot and adjacent upper deck into the pop-up burger bar, serving up two styles of smash burgers - double stacked beef patties and house-made veggie burgers with griddled onions, hoop cheese, Duke's mayo and pickles.

"Believe it or not, burgers are actually much more related to cocktails than you would think," said Umstead. "There's classic, standard recipes and everything sort of builds off that. To me, a burger is that kind of template."

Umstead said when Kingfisher was forced to close on March 15, they hoped the shutdown wouldn't last long. However, not only are bars still unable to operate in North Carolina, the couple has come to realize the dark, low-ceiling, intimate bar setting designed to draw people together, just isn't right for right now.

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"We wanted to do something that felt like the right thing and right place that people could come and feel safe, and feel comfortable and get the energy and hospitality that they've gotten at Kingfisher but in a way that makes sense for right now," Umstead said.

QueenBurger guests will walk up to order and enjoy their meal at socially distanced high top tables without chairs, Umstead said. Pre-bottled cocktails will also be on the menu.

As Umstead is hoping to gradually bring back his small staff that were furloughed in March, he's going to give away 15 percent of QueenBurger profits to support the Durham-based organization working to extend anti-racist education.

"Michelle and I - and hopefully this has been evident to people who have been to the bar- have always thought of what we were trying to do or aspiring to do is being a business on one hand but also something that was a good community member," Umstead said.
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