What’s Happening with Downtown Raleigh?

Everyone is talking about the businesses “ditching” DTR—but rest assured, it doesn’t mean what you might think.

If you’ve scrolled through Instagram lately or seen the news, you’ve likely noticed what feels like a plethora of local businesses breaking away from Down. Places like Capital Club 16, Umbrella Dry Bar, Clouds Brewing, Armadillo Grill and Oak City Meatball Shoppe have closed up shop, proliferating fodder and speculation about Downtown’s revival as “fake news.” But these business decisions don’t accurately reflect the health and future of DTR—and say nothing of the wealth of spaces slated to soon bow.

“Downtown is changing,” emphasizes Richard Averitte, who as executive director of the American Cancer Society for Central & Eastern North Carolina has a vested interest in the health of Raleigh’s business community. “It’s like a gawky teenager experiencing growing pains, sounding/looking different, doesn’t know what to do, etc. As citizens we need to give unconditional love, be patient, create a feedback loop and support whatever decisions are made in the best interest of our great city.”

In terms of the now-defunct businesses, each had their own reason for shuttering—or “retiring,” as Averitte puts it (see “Real Talk“ sidebar). “The average restaurant is open eight years, and many of the places doubled or tripled that number.” In essence, it’s business. Places close, and other spots open—nothing is permanent. 

Naturally, the pandemic and lack of people returning to the office play a large part in Downtown visitation. “Not going to lie, Downtown is not the same space it was prepandemic,” says Crank Arm Brewing co-owner Adam Eckhardt. “A lot of folks have stayed with the work-from-home model, which has really disrupted what Downtown is all about. Through collected cellphone data, it appears 9,000 less people are in DTR every day. Those 9,000 people ate at restaurants, shopped and drank beer.”

But despite the seeming DTR mass exodus, Downtown Raleigh Alliance President & CEO Bill King assures there are “far more openings than closures in Downtown.” See: the laundry list of hot new businesses like Figulina, Gussie’s, Little Native Coffee, Burger Village and Flavor Hills, to name but a few, never mind the lot bowing soon like La Mala and Vic’s new outpost. Add to that the plethora of existing spots who’ve doubled down on DTR like Copperline Plant Co.’s new larger locale on Hargett Street, Madre’s new Smoky Hollow bar and even Raleigh Magazine

To wit, DRA’s just-released Q1 2024 market report shows a net gain of 14 storefront businesses Downtown and 1.5 million unique visitors—not to mention $24.1 million estimated average food and beverage sales and $9.7 million monthly hotel revenue in January and February alone (the latter up 6.7% over the same period last year).

DTR’s population is also expected to grow. “We have 3,000 units hitting the market in the next year, and at 1.5 people per unit, we will have 4,500 new residents Downtown,” maintains David Meeker, partner in Trophy Brewing, Elm Partners and Carpenter Development. “We currently have 10,000, so that’s a 45% increase. That’s a different group than the office workers, but hopefully it’s folks who are working from home a lot and Downtown all day.”

According to Eckhardt, “There’s a symbiotic relationship between the businesses and the residents—you can’t have one without the other. If there’s nothing for the residents to do, then the allure of living Downtown goes away.”

So, the question becomes: How do we get people to come back—and continue coming back—to Downtown in order to help foster both new and existing businesses? First and foremost, he maintains we need to “stop the bleeding” and “figure out how to keep people from fleeing Downtown—because every business we lose, that’s less a community there.”

More specifically, he’s kicked around a couple of ideas: Have businesses pay their workers to be Downtown and spend their money at local businesses; add more lunch options for office workers; make parking free in decks for the first two hours; and create a light rail system and address the overall transportation barrier. 

Eckhardt’s proposals have sparked so much conversation that he’s hosting a public meetup and roundtable community discussion June 10 at Crank Arm, with moderators including DRA’s King, The Davie owner Matt Coleman, local entrepreneur Jacob Molz and representatives from City Council. He hopes the discussion will foster even more innovative ways to attract people to the heart of our city. 

“Downtown is the crown jewel of the city and the state,” says Eckhardt. “We’re the capital of NC—we need to remember that and treat it like that, not abandon it for greener pastures. We’ve got a lot of great things going for us—we can build on that and get people excited. … I know we have a lot of residents coming, and I want them to know this is a fun place to live, work and play.”  


There’s more to DTR closures than meets the eye.

Capital Club 16
Focusing on its food truck, The Wandering Wolf

Umbrella Dry Bar
Honing in on pop-ups and private events

Clouds Brewing
Lease ended (but assures, “this isn’t the end of Clouds Raleigh”)


  • Biscuit Belly
  • Bistro 401
  • Cellar Liquor Bar
  • Figulina
  • Flavor Hills
  • Flour & Barrel
  • Galatea Boutique
  • La Terrazza
  • Little Native Coffee Co.
  • Morelia Gourmet Paletas
  • Sous Terre
  • Wolfe & Porter
  • The Yard Milkshake Bar


  • Alaksha’s Indian Bistro
  • The Bend
  • Birdie’s Barroom & Kitchen
  • The Brass Tap
  • JETSET Pilates
  • La Farm Bakery
  • La Mala
  • Noire The Nail Bar
  • Press Coffee, Cocktails & Crepes
  • Sir Walter Coffee & Kitchen
  • SweatHouz
  • Tucker Street Diner

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About the Author

Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.