Businesses still recovering 4 months after massive downtown Raleigh fire

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — This weekend marks four months since a massive five-alarm fire in downtown Raleigh, and some businesses in the area say are still feeling the heat.

Some of the business owners said even though their buildings weren’t damaged by the fire, their budgets were because of decreased revenue.

They believe ongoing street closures caused the customer base to drop, and hope the city can hurry repairs to reopen the roads.

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Several business owners, including the heads of Little City Brewing and Clouds Brewing, met this week with representatives from the city and construction crews to discuss the loss of business and ask for urgency in removing the roadblocks.

Several blocks of Harrington, Lane, and Jones remain closed as repairs continue on damaged buildings.

Jon Seelbinder opened Little City about six months before the blaze. He said the closures are keeping some customers from coming.

“We’re probably down to a third, or maybe a quarter of where we should be right now,” Seelbinder said.

He said he thought maybe the trend was just an issue with his business, but recently talked to some of the other nearby businesses and found almost all of them had taken a hit since the fire.

He said foot-traffic, in particular, is way down, but there is also less parking, and some of the area’s roads are one way.

“I was just in an Uber riding here, and it said to go up to Lane Street and take a left. If (the driver) had taken that left, she’d have hit a dead end, had to turn back around, come back up Capital Boulevard, taken a right onto Hillsborough Street, which would have put her onto Harrington Street which is also closed,” Seelbinder said.

“Are people giving up by the time they can’t get somewhere? There’s a lot of options to go to and when you can’t follow your GPS and get here readily, people might get a little confused.”

Clouds Brewing general manager, Nicole Madey, said many regulars who walked to the restaurant on weekdays aren’t taking the extra time to detour.

“Lunches have definitely been down since there’s less foot traffic that is able to get to us from the majority of the downtown area. Our dinners are slowly increasing and getting back up,” Madey said.

She plans to do more promotion of the business to try to bring more people in. Madey said she hopes the meeting with city officials will lead to some improvements now that the businesses are addressing their losses.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s been a lot of activity going on in the last couple of months. It’s kind of hit a stand still,” she said.

Madey said the city representative informed the business owners that they should expect most of the road closures to reopen by the end of the year, but some blocks next to the under-construction apartment complex which burned in the fire may remain closed until its construction is complete.

CBS North Carolina reached out to the city for comment and will continue working to get a response.

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