Sixty-five restaurants opened in Greenville during the past 18 months and more are planned
AUGUST 11, 2011 11:04 a.m. (0)
During the past 18 months, new business licenses were issued for 65 restaurants that were opening for the first time, changing ownership or changing locations within the city limits.
That doesn’t include new restaurants still under construction or restaurants yet to be approved by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the city has too many restaurants.
During that same time period, at least 52 restaurants have closed, according to city business license records.
“The market will determine whether there are too many or too few,” said Nancy Whitworth, the city’s economic development director.
Since the beginning of 2010, 14 restaurants have opened in the downtown area. Eighteen, including several hot dog cart operators, have shut down.
Greenville’s new restaurants span all levels of cost – from fast-food restaurants and pizza joints to casual sit-down dining to fancy places – and all varieties of food.
So do the ones that closed.
Some of the restaurants that have opened in the city limits during past 18 months – Nose Dive, Carolina Ale House, Jimmy John’s and Nantucket Seafood Grill – and several others that are planned – Cheddars and Genghis Grill among them – are run by companies which have been successful here and elsewhere.
“Many of them are coming from other places, have a track record of being successful and see something in the market here, maybe a niche that is missing,” Whitworth said. “Any time you see an up tick in restaurants and retail, it’s a sign that people have more confidence.”
Carl Sobocinski, owner of the Table 301 restaurant group that operates five restaurants downtown, said it appears the worst economic times are behind Greenville’s restaurateurs.
He said Greenville in many ways was less impacted by the recession than other parts of the country.
Housing prices fell, but did not drop to record low levels as in other places, the region’s corporate giants held in there and while people dined out less, they did continue to eat out.
“Our industry as a whole survived as well as in any part of the country,” he said.
He said 2008 and 2009 were historically low years and customer counts began to rise in 2010. They’re up in 2011.
“We see diners coming back out to eat more frequently and we see them spending more time at the table enjoying the company, the food and beverage and the entertainment value of restaurants,” he said.
Sobocinski said restaurants have become a new form of entertainment.
But Sobocinski says he thinks Greenville is saturated with restaurants based on the population and the size of downtown.
“When you can get a 7:30 reservation the day of at Devereaux’s in what is arguably the finest dining experience in downtown, then we have an abundance of dining inventory and are at a saturation point.”
But they keep coming.
The city’s Board of Zoning Appeals will consider seven applications for new restaurants and bars at its meeting next month.
A two-story bar and restaurant called 21 East is proposed for 21 East Washington. According to plans submitted to the city, the second floor would feature a music stage, while the first floor would have a full-service bar and restaurant.
The Gaslight Lounge and Grill, which is described as a “nice neighborhood bar of old” is planned for 600 Keith Drive.
There are plans to open a Breakwater Restaurant at 802 S. Main St. in the space formerly occupied by Rio.
An upscale lounge with a full restaurant that would serve tapas style dishes, called the Ultra Lounge, is planned for 125 N. Main St.
Friar’s Tavern, which has a site in Clemson, wants to open at 534 Woods Lake Road in the former Italian Market site.
Cork & Tap, which will offer boutique beer and wine as well as food, is planned for Augusta Street across from the Mills Lofts.
And, finally, the Cigar Boxx, a cigar bar, wants to expand its current space at 25 College St.
Sobocinski says new restaurants continuing to open is good for the consumer and restaurant operators.
“This raises the bar on everyone and, ultimately, the consumer wins, the community wins and we continue to be recognized as having great restaurants in a city of our size,” Sobocinski said.
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