By Kirby Rucker
The economic and social impacts of COVID-19 have been greater than most of us ever could have imagined, but restaurants and bars, the heart of Asheville’s economy, have taken some of the most crushing blows. While we’re still chowing down and taking out from currently open eateries, we want to pay homage to some of our favorites who we will miss dearly in 2021.
1. Well Played Board Game Café
Well Played, a board-game-themed cafe located downtown, closed in October 2020. (Check out our 2019 article on the biz.) It was a locally-owned brick and mortar business that opened in 2016, and had the largest collection of board games in North Carolina. Throughout the pandemic, Well Played closed shop and shifted to board game rentals to stay afloat. In the future, Well Played will continue to be present in the Asheville community, but through currently unannounced new mediums.
2. WakuWaku Eatery
WakuWaku Eatery, a locally owned Japanese restaurant located on Merrimon Ave., closed in October 2020. The eatery opened in 2018, then shifted to take-out and delivery only once the pandemic began, but ultimately decided to permanently close their dine-in location. After the closure of their restaurant, WakuWaku shifted to Waku2, an online ordering platform which has multiple pick-up locations in Asheville, depending on the day of the week.
Collaboratory, an extension of CANarchy and an Asheville craft-beer-collaboration initiative, opened up in 2019 downtown where they served both brews and food in the former Lexington Avenue Brewery (LAB) space. In March 2020, they temporarily closed, which unfortunately eventually led to a permanent closure. CANarchy continues to craft and sell canned innovative flavors for the drinkers of independent craft beers.
4. The Mothlight
The Mothlight was one of West Asheville’s best known and well loved live music venues and bars. Opened in 2013, the Mothlight was a home for local and travelling musicians. The venue decided to close permanently in June 2020, with COVID-19 playing a large part in the decision because the pandemic made it more difficult to find a new owner. Soon to take its place on Haywood Road is Different Wrld, a local hub with access to creative equipment and Filipinx food.
5. Broth Lab
Broth Lab opened up in 2019 in the River Arts District, in the former location of both White Duck Taco Shop and Henrietta’s Poultry Shop. Serving up beloved “ramen-ish” dishes, the company remained open until November 2020 when they closed permanently. Broth Lab is currently working on a ramen kit project, which could be bought at local grocers to make from the comfort of your home. Soon to take its place in the Hatchery building is Baby Bull, an extension of Bull & Beggar.
6. Aux Bar
The Aux Bar opened downtown in 2018 and was a hot spot on Lexington Ave. for cocktails and American bar food. After several adaptations, the restaurant decided to shutter in August 2020, mainly due to the restriction of alcohol sales during the pandemic. The restaurant also boasted two extensions, the Brinehaus Food Truck and the Blind Pig Supper Club. While the food truck also closed permanently, the Blind Pig continued service until September 2020.
7. Rezaz Pan Mediterranean
Rezaz, a sophisticated Mediterranean eatery and casual wine bar located in Biltmore Village, closed permanently in June 2020 after 17 years of service in Asheville after mainly focusing on take-out during the pandemic. However, Chefs Brian and Laura’s food lives on through their sister restaurant Baba Nahm, a grab-and-go Middle Eastern restaurant located in the Grove Arcade. They serve falafels, shawarma, stuffed pitas, and more.
8. THE BLOCK Off Biltmore
THE BLOCK Off Biltmore, a solidarity bar and dance hall, closed permanently in July 2020. They had been in their location downtown since 2016, making an impact by serving the community and advocating for social justice. Since their closure due to reduced sales during the pandemic, THE BLOCK has continued to be active on their social media, sharing community oriented events and articles.
9. Rustic Grape Wine Tastings
Rustic Grape opened up their cozy, family-owned location downtown in 2017, offering sips and social hours for their guests. They made the decision to close permanently in June 2020 due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 and reduced alcohol sales. After the closure of the wine bar, the owner, Melissa, is now offering virtual wine tastings or attendance at your outdoor, socially distanced wine tasting event.
10. Native Kitchen and Social Pub
Native Kitchen and Social Pub decided to close permanently in May 2020. Since opening in 2012 in Swannanoa, this social pub served up always-changing locally farmed and sustainable items on their menu, paired alongside locally crafted alcoholic beverages. Additionally, they were also a place for local artists and musicians to call home. They hope to possibly open back up sometime in the future.