After 59 years of service, the beloved fried chicken spot Price’s Chicken Coop announced Thursday that it would be closing its doors for good.
The historic cash-only South End restaurant stated in a Facebook post that it will close after Saturday, June 19. Citing “labor shortage, rising food costs, food quality and another coin shortage” as the reasons for closure, Price’s thanked its customers for the past six decades of business.
Price’s Chicken Coop, which first opened in 1962, is among the oldest and most renowned restaurants in Charlotte. Its homestyle cooking and delicious desserts have made it a cherished spot for Charlotteans and visitors alike, including Cam Newton and Jay Leno.
When news of the closure broke on Thursday morning, Charlotteans flocked to Price’s for one last meal. Encroached on all sides by high-rises and office buildings, the humble Camden Road shop had a line snaking around the block.
Quentin Henderson, who stood in line with Keyosha Henderson on Thursday, had been coming to Price’s Chicken Coop since before he could remember. A north Charlotte native, he thought gentrification played a major role in Price’s closure and on Charlotte’s shops and restaurants.
“I’m almost used to stuff like this happening now,” Henderson said. “You could leave NoDa for like a month and you come back and there’s something new there. Everything is completely different.”
“We knew it was coming,” Keyosha added. “I mean, take a look around. Gentrification got us here.”
Price’s is the latest in a number of longstanding South End restaurants to shut down in recent years. Mr. K’s Soft Ice Cream, which opened in 1967, announced its closing in March. Owner George Dizes sold the building to a couple who intend to open a Midwestern-style pizzeria. Owen’s Bagels & Deli, a New York-style bagel shop, shuttered its South Boulevard location in 2019. Owen’s announced in a Facebook post that the restaurant’s team would search for a new location, but as of this writing it has not reopened.
With North Carolina easing COVID-19 restrictions and more people going out to eat again, restaurants across the United States and Charlotte are struggling to find and hire food service workers. While chain restaurants and local joints offer signing bonuses and free meals for applicants, state legislators are tightening up unemployment requirements in an effort to get people back to work.
Restaurant employees have felt some of the most profound effects of the pandemic, with one California study ranking line cooks as having a 60% increase in mortality rate since it began (compared to 22% overall).
Nevertheless, North Carolina’s minimum wage is $2.13 for tipped workers and $7.25 for untipped workers, and has remained stagnant for 12 years. Workers at Price’s Chicken Coop would not disclose their salaries to Queen City Nerve, and job postings from the past year do not list salaries.
It’s worth noting that the Prices’ property (including the Price’s Chicken Coop storefront) is valued at $1.7 million.
Another factor driven by the pandemic is what the fried chicken joint called “another coin shortage.” Price’s Chicken Coop has been cash-only since it first opened. Many businesses throughout Charlotte have switched to cashless transactions (via card or contactless payment) in order to stop the spread of coronavirus. Even as North Carolina re-opens, the trend towards cashless payment continues. But Price’s has resolutely resisted these changes.
Mary Romero, who walked out with a half-gallon of iced tea, said that it was past time for Price’s to switch to cashless.
“I love it, but finding an ATM like every time I go? That’s annoying… I think they should have changed it.”
But to Sabrina Glenn, who also stood in line on Thursday, the down-to-earth nature of Price’s was part of its charm. “My husband has been coming here for 20, 30 years. He put me on 10 years ago,” she said.
“It is absolutely an iconic place. It will be missed.”
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