Bypass blamed for restaurant closure

Published 7:17 am Monday, April 4, 2016

At a commissioner’s request, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners will be briefed as to why a popular Washington restaurant closed suddenly.

Golden Corral, located on Carolina Avenue, closed its doors March 24 after decades of operation — a surprise to many of its customers.

Beaufort County Economic Developer Martyn Johnson will present the report about the sudden closure to commissioners at the Board’s regular monthly meeting, at the request of Commissioner Hood Richardson.

“Bypass killed business by decreasing through-traffic,” is the reason the restaurant closed, as stated by the Golden Corral District Manager in Johnson’s report, included in the Board’s agenda. The district manager is not named in the report.

According to the report, the Carolina Avenue Golden Corral’s weekly sales dropped from $65,000 to $80,000 in 2000 to weekly sales of $40,000 in 2016. Also included in the report are U.S. Highway 17 business/Fourth Street traffic counts, which dropped from 18,000 cars per day in 2009 to 12,000 cars per day in 2012, the last year for which counts are available. The indication is that the U.S. 17 bypass, built to relieve congestion on U.S. 17 and improve access to areas in eastern North Carolina, supports the district manager’s reason for closure. However, Beaufort County’s sales tax revenue has bounced back from a low of $6,538,586 in 2011 to $8,400,913 last year, though it has not risen to a 2009 high of $9,186,727, according to the report.

Several Golden Corral restaurants have closed in recent years, though the franchise has been named the No.1 franchisor in the U.S. among family steakhouses for 19 consecutive years. In 2014, there were 500 Golden Corrals in 41 states, with a new one opening every 11 days during that year.

Not all have been successful, according to the report: a Wilson Golden Corral is currently struggling to keep its doors open due to competition and food prices; a Winston-Salem franchise closed its doors on Dec. 30, 2015, 20 years to the day it opened in 1995. Another, empty since its closure in 2015, will reopen as another restaurant in Cary, and in Florida, two Golden Corrals recently have been shut down by local health inspectors.

A replacement restaurant at the Golden Corral location will need to replace existing kitchen equipment, Johnson’s report says.

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meets Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the County Administrative Office, 121 W. Third St., Washington.