Business

No more suds at Bub’s as Chapel Hill bar closes after 30 years

The Chapel Hill bar Bub O’Malley’s shared a two-floor building on East Rosemary Street with Country Fried Duck. Bub O’Malley’s closed on Saturday, July 22.
The Chapel Hill bar Bub O’Malley’s shared a two-floor building on East Rosemary Street with Country Fried Duck. Bub O’Malley’s closed on Saturday, July 22. Google Street View

After serving customers for 30 years on Rosemary Street in downtown Chapel Hill, Bub O’Malley’s closed its doors for good last Saturday.

Owner James Rippe said the bar no longer had enough customers.

“Unfortunately, with the financial climate of this town, it is not feasible to keep this bar open,” Rippe said. “Things in this town are no longer what they used to be, and in order to stay a viable business, we needed a lot more clients coming in the door.”

Rippe, who has run the bar since 2005, said rising rents in downtown and the changing demographics and tastes of students all contributed to the bar’s demise.

Business began declining about five years ago, he said.

“The kids don’t come out as much as they used to,” he said. “I remember when my family took over in ’99, and when I moved down here in 2005, you would have lines out the door every night from Tuesday to Saturday. It was guaranteed that every bar would be packed.”

Rippe theorized that the resurgence of downtown Durham’s bar scene and the increased academic requirements to get into UNC-Chapel Hill were also reasons for the bar’s decreasing popularity.

Bub O’Malley’s has had several owners since it opened in 1987. No other serious parties were interested in purchasing Bub O’Malley’s, said Rippe, whose family has run it since 1999.

Rent for the second-floor of 157 E. Rosemary St., where Bub O’Malley’s is located, was about $4,000 a month. The bar couldn’t afford to do any meaningful renovations to the aging building, Rippe said.

News of the bar’s closing was greeted with nostalgia on social media by former and current Chapel Hill residents.

“I'm beyond saddened to hear of the closing of our beloved Bub O'Malley's in Chapel Hill,” Ross Taylor, a former visiting lecturer at the UNC School of Media and Journalism, wrote on Facebook.

“There are few places I loved more. I loved saddling up to the foosball table and passing countless hours with some of my closest friends over the years. So many crazy memories and some of the best times with the people I cared most.”

Rippe – who also did photography in addition to running the bar – said he wants to open a photography studio in Durham.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes

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