The rumors are true: Hops Burger Bar bows out of Chapel Hill

Hops Burger Bar has closed its Chapel Hill location. The last day of service was July 3.
Hops Burger Bar has closed its Chapel Hill location. The last day of service was July 3. Hops Burger Bar

The Greensboro-based burger chain Hops Burger Bar has closed its Triangle location after less than two years.

Located on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, Hops had been a seemingly popular spot for students and locals looking for a burger fix. But owners said the space wasn’t working.

Hops is now the third restaurant to close in the 140 West Franklin development in three years, joining Old Chicago Pizza and Lime Fresh Mexican Grill.

The last day of service for Hops was Wednesday, July 3. Hops co-owner Chris Martin said the company told employees about the imminent closing in a meeting on June 24. He said the disappointing run for Hops in Chapel Hill came as a surprise.

“Chapel Hill didn’t meet our brand standards,” Martin said. “It’s a hard place to make it. ... We like Chapel Hill, but our model didn’t work right there.”

Hops Burger Bar started in Greensboro as Spring Bar & Pizzeria, but rebranded to Hops in 2013. Now there are two locations in Greensboro and another on the way in Winston Salem, following the shuttering of the Chapel Hill spot.

Hops is owned by Chris Martin and David Essa, who added the Chapel Hill location in 2017. The restaurant’s concept is built around upscale burgers and craft beer. Martin said the Chapel Hill location proved to be too far away from the company’s home base in Greensboro. He added that beyond Winston Salem, there’s no more growth planned for the foreseeable future, ruling out any future Triangle locations.

“We were busy, but it’s really too far away for us to manage,” Martin said.

While the decision to close was announced to some employees in June, most front of the house employees learned of Hops closing in a meeting July 1. Martin said that the restaurant offered jobs at the Greensboro locations and that the company cared about its employees. The short notice, though, was by necessity, he said, as workers began leaving once they knew there was an expiration date on their job.

“When you give people notice they get other jobs immediately,” Martin said. “Most places don’t give their employees notice, they just close. We gave them notice so they could get another job, but each day more and more of them left.”

While it didn’t work out for Hops, Martin said he still thinks the location on Franklin Street can work for another restaurant.

“It really was a great location,” Martin said. “We always liked Chapel Hill, loved the sports program and the vibe.”

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.