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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A staple of downtown Wilmington is closing its doors. After more than two decades, Caffe Phoenix will serve its last meal July 31.

Opened in 1989, “Phoenix,” as it affectionately became known, was one of the first fine dining restaurants in downtown Wilmington. Employees say its closing means the end of an era.

“It’s such a staple to downtown Wilmington,” employee Nichole Mize said. “Everybody comes from out of town. They’ll come back once a year to vacation.”

“We still get notes about people who met their significant other here,” manager Andrew Sutton said.

When owner Roy Clifton died after a battle with lung cancer, employees say his wife decided it was time to close a little earlier than expected.

“They ran a restaurant for almost 25 years,” Sutton said. “They opened the river boat in, I think, 1984, and then they bought this place a while back.”

In 2010, the Cliftons moved the restaurant from its original 9 S. Front Street location to where it is today a couple blocks north.

“There’s not anything like it downtown, and there probably never will be,” Mize said.

Though its doors will be closed soon, Caffe Phoenix is still running full speed ahead.

“We’re doing the same thing. We just got a new menu,” Sutton said. “We’re not slowing down any. We’re just going to keep going until the end.”

A special dinner is in the works for the restaurant’s final day with drink specials and interesting entrees.

Another downtown restaurant, Marrakesh, has suddenly closed its doors. The Turkish/Moroccan eatery on Front Street that only opened six weeks ago has shut down. Workers have recently been seen outside picketing the restaurant, claiming they were owed money from the owner.

Comment on this Story

  • Beach Bum

    Warms my heart to see another failing hippie hangout bite the dust.

    Make way for Rick Wilson and all the other Stop Titan/Surfrider/Stop Mandalay morons!!!!

  • Guestginger

    The widow of the owner decided to close the restaurant rather than continuing without the leadership of her husband–a downtown BUSINESSMAN, not a “hippie” by any stretch.

    (by the way, aren’t beach bums very similar to hippies…?)

    I thought the Republicans claimed to be in favor of small businesses and entrepreneurs.

    Keep flying your true colors!

  • Guestread

    comprehension is such a great skill to have.
    from the article…When owner Roy Clifton died after a battle with lung cancer, employees say his wife decided it was time to close a little earlier than expected.

    And to the other person who commented, this was far from a hippie hangout.

  • CM

    That location is truly cursed, which makes little sense considering it is in a prime location. How many different restaurants have gone through there in the past decade? If Phoenix couldn’t break it, who can in that location? Then again, Indochine inherited a historically problematic location on Market St and look how it took off. Nonetheless, congrats on Phoenix making it for so long in Wilmington; they survived far longer than most.

  • Guest857

    It’s not some curse against that location. It failed (like so many) due to the economy. Front Street Brewery is in the same block and they do a booming business…because of their prices. “The Eat Spot” has the best burger in town, priced reasonably and they seem to be holding their own. Phoenix was pricey. Watch Crow Hill fail, won’t be long.

  • bjones

    Your response is non-sensical. You question why a cursed location could not make it and how many retaurants had been there in the PAST decade. Cafe Phoenix has been there for well over several decades which is well beyond the life span of most restaurants.
    In the future, please remember that old saying that it is better to be silent and thought to be a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt…..

  • TracylovesDT

    You know I was kinda thinking the same thing, that that particular building is cursed. I mean what are the chances that the owner just happens to die of lung cancer while they are (newly!) in that building. I know there is no such thing as curses but it is quite a coincidence. I really liked Caffe Phoenix. I will be sorry to see them go. And I’m a Republican. Good food is good food, it don’t make a bit of difference what you think or what you look like.

  • Beach Bum

    I am sorry that Mr Clifton lost his fight with cancer. Several of my family members have passed away under the same set of circumstances. I am glad his widow made a sound finacial business decision that will allow her time to grieve and move on.

    However, it is my opinion the vast majority of downtown is bohemian by nature. Which, unfortunately, includes Cafe Phoenix.

    Republicans do support small business ventures and the like, however, I don’t always have to agree with their opinion. Since you are trying to infer or make implications I will share another example. The abortion debate, Republicans are pro life and Democrats are pro choice. Personally, I feel it is up to my wife to make decisions of what is or is not in the best interest for her and her body. No one else bears that responsibility. But she and I communicate and share information and ideas while making informed decisions. We do not make decisions based upon media attempts to sensationalize a story to generate ratings or misinformation by interest groups, like Stop Titan or Surfriders.

    Again, glad another hippie hang out bites the dust. I do not support the bohemian genre.

    I fail to make your connection of hippies to bums…maybe you have some first hand knowledge and are a little more informed on what being a hippie is.

  • Peggy

    Ahhh yes comprehension is a wonderful thing. I was becoming so confused by all of the comments. The male owner died of lung cancer, the female owner decided to closer earlier than expected. Not, so difficult to read, but do not know how anyone can interpret this as a curse, or that they restaurant was not doing well. Wonderful restaurant…I will miss eating there. My daughter and I always went to Riverfest, and always ate dinner at the Caffe Phoenix, since she was 8, and last year we took my dog and she sat with us outside watching all the people pass by….I realize it is just a restaurant, but a very meaningful one for me, and will be sorely missed.


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