Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Restaurant numbers

The recent rash of closings – Oceanaire near SouthPark, Sonny’s on Monroe Road, San Remo in the east and Sugar Magnolia in south Charlotte – beg the question: How are the restaurant numbers in Charlotte?

One answer comes from the Mecklenburg County Health Department, which tracks the number of places offering sit-down dining each September, and the change in that number each year. Only twice in the past 20 years has that number been negative – meaning fewer places opened than closed – and that was back in 1991-’92 and ’95-’96. (It’s not exactly precise, since some restaurants continue to be counted although their permits have been suspended for not paying fees, etc.)

More accurate numbers have been available the past two years, showing we had 2,063 places operating in ’08-’09 and 2,120 in ’09-’10 (though that number is obviously a little early). But the change number has varied a good bit, from 149 in ’86-’87 to 70 in 2003-’04. The last five years, from ’05-’06 to ’09-’10 ran 67, 68, 80, 59 and 28.

The county’s Bill Hardister sums up: “Either way you look at it is a snapshot, just with different filters in place. And either way, we have more restaurants now than we did one year ago ... But the number of plans we are receiving for new/remodeled facilities is down and with the lag between plan submission and permitting a facility, any decline we see may be more likely in (fiscal year 2010).”

So, in terms of closings, it still may get worse before it gets better.


Anonymous said...

As a recent translpant to Charlotte, via New York and Miami and being in the restaurant biz. It is a sad state of affairs here. You have a culinary school here that costs more than the average chef salary here and an over abundance of "meat and two sides" mentality dinners. Itis no wonder places are closing left and right. Charlotte needs it's own identity, such as Atlanta or Charelston in order for it to become a serious dining destination. Just look at "uptown", it's a ghost town past 8 o'clock. One of the top grossing BBQ restaurants in the U.S. is in NYC, C'mon you guys invented it! and you have nothing in this area to show for it. I understand downsizing in this economy, but if Ken Lewis still dines out often then turn this city around and turn it into a competitive dining destination!!!!