Looking one year later at a Charlotte bar turned grocery store during COVID-19 pandemic

Local restaurant survives pandemic by getting creative

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - This week, North Carolina marked a grim milestone. It’s been one year since the first case of the coronavirus showed up in the state.

We’ve been going back and checking in on people and businesses to see how they’ve coped over the past 12 months.

You might remember their stories. We revisit a bar owner who turned his business into a neighborhood store.

“That confidence was just a veil. I was scared to death,” Matt Wohlfarth, owner of the Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, said.

We first met him last year as the pandemic was sweeping though the Queen City. With a shutdown looming and bills to pay, Matt’s back was against the wall.

“Everyone’s looking at you saying what are we gonna do? And you had to look like you had a plan, even though you didn’t,” Matt said.

But what Matt had was a fire in his belly that he wasn’t going to lose his bar.

“If there were any independent bars or restaurants that made it, we were going to be one!” Matt exclaimed.

So he came up with a brilliant plan - open a grocery store on top of his bar. WBTV’s Ron Lee found Mark in April of last year stacking toilet paper where the top shelf vodka usually went.

“We have everything, the milk, the chicken the tuna. Whatever you want,” Matt said in 2020.

And while he didn’t make a killing at it, it was that determination not to fail that inspired his employees, even through the trying times.

“He has that creative mindset, which I definitely think makes this restaurant thrive a lot more. Because he’s able to think of things like that.” said waitress Carolyn Mays.

The owner also credits a strong take-out service which has let him power though some rough waters. But the memory of what they experienced is never too far away.

Two marquees out in front of the grille marks what everyone here went through.

One counts how many days it’s been since COVID-19 arrived at the front door. The other, looking ahead at how many employees have come back home. At one point, that number was down from 93 to eight.

“Everywhere I go I think about those ten weeks where we were shut down, and what’s different now then what it used to be.” Matt said.

And while many businesses still struggle to survive through the pandemic, Matt says he’s happy to still be standing at the end.

“I’m glad we did. Because it’s something to look back on and say wow, that was a hell of a year,” Matt said.

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