Downtown Raleigh bars, restaurants pivot NYE celebration plans to keep business alive

Friday, January 1, 2021
Downtown Raleigh businesses hope for a better 2021
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VisitRaleigh can only hope for a better 2021 and successful vaccines to get conventions and meetings in Wake County.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- New Year's Eve is usually a moneymaker for bars and restaurants; places are decked out and people dolled up for the celebration. The festivities last well into the night and sales flow just the champagne.

COVID-19 pandemic putting a halt to all that extra business along Fayetteville Street.

Establishments are required through the Executive Order to cut-off alcohol sales at 9 p.m. However, some bars and restaurants don't want to fizzle plans altogether. Spots, like Clockwork, are holding a 9 p.m. champagne toast since they're not allowed to open for the real stroke of midnight.

"Tonight would have been a (high) bar bill for sure," said Lonerider owner Tom Simon.

The restaurant opened mid-November in the Five Points section of Raleigh and Simon is working to build up business by offering grab-and-go meal and beverage bundles for folks to enjoy at home.

He hopes to host a proper party next year.

"Having the ability for people to be able to come out in the community, hang out and maybe relax and enjoy themselves a little bit tonight would have been great, but we understand what's going on and what needs to be done," said Simon.

RELATED: Drinks-to-go executive order gets mixed reviews from N.C. restaurant, bar owners

While some restaurant owners took advantage of the opportunity to serve drinks to-go, others say the expense doesn't make sense.

State of Beer is seeing a good deal of business, people have been stopping by and grabbing spirits.

However, the bar's co-owner, Chris Powers, notes one difference this year, "We would prepare on having a big celebration outside and enjoy the ball drop, and expect two or three waves of revelers coming through here."

Many business owners plan to toast to better days ahead.

"We're trying to make the best of it and we're continuing to hustle. You got to hustle. It's a lot harder to get people to come in," said Powers.

The City of Raleigh is trying to help struggling small businesses by hosting an informational session about the new federal COVID-19 relief package.

The meeting is taking place Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 and features special guest Patrick Rodriguez, Senior Area Manager from the US Small Business Administration.

A hope for a better 2021

VisitRaleigh can only hope for a better 2021 and successful vaccines to get conventions and meetings in Wake County. More than 300 conventions and meetings pulled the plug in 2020 and data suggests that would've meant $164 million in economic impact.

Weekly hotel occupancy in November 2020 averaged 45%--that number is down by more than 40% from last year.

Total tax collections are down $20.1 million overall compared to 2019.

Hotel lodging tax collections through October 2020 are down $13.7 million or 53% over last year. Prepared food and beverage tax collections through October 2020 are down $6.4 million or 24% over last year.

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance has posted a list of things you can do to safely celebrate the new year including the Illuminate Art Walk which runs through early January.