Popular Durham restaurant forced to relocate outdoor seating arrangements after misunderstanding with city

Josh Chapin Image
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Durham restaurant moves outdoor seating after misunderstanding with city
Just last week, Dashi debuted its outdoor seating on East Chapel Hill Street, but the City of Durham told co-owner Nick Hawthorne-Johnson he had to dismantle the set-up he installed

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- After six and a half months of being closed, Dashi, a popular Durham ramen spot hit a major roadblock on its way back.

Just last week, they debuted their outdoor seating on East Chapel Hill Street, but not long after, the City of Durham told the restaurant co-owner Nick Hawthorne-Johnson he had to dismantle the setup.

"We built the planters and the seating area so we could utilize it and apparently the city didn't consult with the fire department," he said.

The city of Durham said it wasn't the fire department so much as Hawthorne-Johnson's permits. They were approved but only for movable tables and chairs. The permit said a lane closure was part of this as well but not for the platform he had set up.

Nick said he spent around $10,000 on the seating area and nearly $50,000 getting everything back up, including hiring back staff.

"As a small business owner it's just me and my partners who are going to bear the costs for this: like we can't go back and unopen," Hawthorne-Johnson said. "It's pretty demoralizing to not feel very supported and it's pretty demoralizing to then have the rug yanked out from under us."

Dashi now has a set up down the block which he calls a "degraded experience for our guests."

Hawthorne-Johnson said it's harder to do service and waiters are now having to carry tables and food 80 feet and across an alley.

The restaurant co-owner said he's trying to be optimistic about everything because he knows everyone is struggling including the city. He was hopeful the city would have more out-of-the-box ideas.

"The small business community in Durham already feels like we haven't seen the rolling up of sleeves and the wading into the situation and decisive action and leadership that we expected," Nick said.

His original seating sat 44 people. He's hopeful the new set up sits half that.