One of the city’s longest running restaurants has become another casualty of the coronavirus.
Though many restaurants have reopened since the state lifted the restriction for dine-in, Southern Lights Bistro at 2415 Lawndale Drive in Greensboro did not.
And now it never will.
“We’re already at the tightest margins. To think I can do OK at 50% is just not a reality,” said owner John Drees.
“You can’t say social distancing and bistro in the same sentence and make any sense of it.”
Drees said he was also concerned about the safety of his clientele and the safety of his business partners, both of whom are in a high-risk demographic for complications from COVID-19.
He said he considered Zoom wine tastings and chef classes, takeout and delivery.
“There’s a hundred great ways to reinvent a full-service restaurant, but none of them are actually running a full-service restaurant, which is what I signed up for.”
Drees signed up for it 35 years ago when he started working at a new bistro that opened in a former college bar on Smyres Place. Southern Lights was a breath of fresh air for the city with its intimate setting, signature sandwiches and salads, blackboard specials, a well-regarded wine list and impeccable staff.
Drees said he became a junior partner in 1989 and almost 10 years ago, he took over the restaurant, moved it to the Shops at Kirkwood and tweaked the name.
But now a pandemic he sees no end to doesn’t translate to a profit when he feels customers are not going to eat out. And he doesn’t want to borrow money to keep his restaurant on life support.
“Unfortunately, restaurants are going to be the next hot spot (for the virus) because you can’t wear a mask and eat and drink wine,” Drees said.
“I don’t see restaurants recovering any time soon.”
At 56, Drees knows he’ll be back, he just doesn’t know when.
“I’m not done. I’m just switching gears and changing chapters.”
Mexican restaurant to open in old Ham’s site
The site of Greensboro’s last Ham’s restaurant is getting new life as a Mexican restaurant.
Rio Grande Mexican Kitchen is opening July 5 or 6 at the space at 1635 New Garden Road at Garden Creek Shopping Center in Greensboro.
Rio Grande is moving from its current location at 1614 Highwoods Blvd. at nearby Jefferson Village.
Ham’s vacated the site last fall, ending decades of the iconic chain operating in Greensboro.
Triad restaurants recognized
Wine Spectator has announced its 2020 Award of Excellence for restaurants and nine Triad eateries were recognized.
In Greensboro, restaurants recognized include Print Works Bistro, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, Green Valley Grill and Village Tavern.
Butcher and Bull, Ryan’s Restaurant and Village Tavern are the Winston-Salem restaurants recognized.
Other restaurants include Out West Steakhouse and Saddle Room in Kernersville and The Celtic Fringe in Reidsville.
From neighborhood wine bars to fine dining restaurants, Wine Spectator honored 3,776 restaurants in all 50 states and more than 79 countries.
A searchable database can be found at www.winespectator.com/restaurants/search.
Virtual beer and wine dinners
- Melt Kitchen and Bar (1941 New Garden Road, Greensboro) will hold a virtual Four Saints Brewing beer dinner on July 11.
Cost for the four-course meal is $65 per person. Each course includes a beer.
Dinner orders must be placed by July 8 by calling 336-763-5445. Pickup, with reheating instructions, is the day of the event.
Four Saints Brewing will walk you through the tasting on a Zoom video call.
Four Saints has reopened its taproom at 218 S. Fayetteville St. in Asheboro.
- Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar (3342 W. Friendly Ave., Greensboro) is offering a nightly Caymus wine dinner either in person at the restaurant or as a virtual experience from home.
The four-course dinner at the table is $99 per person. The virtual four-course dinner for two, including two bottles of wine, is $198 and is available for curbside pickup.
- Subway has brought back the $5 foot-long sub, but you have to order two.
It is available at participating restaurants for a limited time.
By the way, Subway is hiring at restaurants across the country.
The company announced in a release that its franchise owners aim to hire for about 50,000 jobs in North American restaurants.
- Denny’s has brought back its popular $2, $4, $6, $8 Value Menu which features a mix of favorites and some new menu items that include biscuit, gravy and egg breakfast; chocolate hazelnut crepe; chorizo burrito; and Cowboy Chopped Steak. It is available for a limited time.