In a surprise announcement shared Tuesday, the owners of Double Eagle Grill & Bar in downtown Aberdeen said they’d be closing their doors.
“Well folks, we can’t resign another lease because we’re looking for another spot,” owner Brant Newton posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “Today will be one of our last lunches.”
Newton and his wife, Jani, opened the Double Eagle in early September 2016, and it quickly became a popular addition to the local food scene.
Known for its outstanding burgers and wings, their eatery was consistently ranked No. 1 out of 43 restaurants in Aberdeen on the TripAdvisor website. The restaurant also garnered a Certificate of Excellence 2018 award from the online resource and was a finalist in multiple categories for The Pilot’s Best of the Pines awards in 2017 and 2018. In this year’s contest, Double Eagle was competing for honors in five categories including Best Wings, Best Burger, Best Lunch Place, Best Casual Dining, and Best Bar Menu.
The historic building where Double Eagle was located is one of six downtown Aberdeen properties owned by the McPeake family.
Melissa McPeake disputes the allegations and online gossip that the condition or maintenance of the building was a factor in the Newtons decision. The couple themselves have been silent on what prompted them to close their restaurant, or where they may be looking for new digs.
“We are just as disappointed about this. It was not an issue with the lease,” she said. “There has been a lot of speculation about the building, but there has been no incidents on our end. The only complaint we ever handled was the air conditioning, which was replaced.”
Approximately one month ago, McPeake said Newton let her know that he would be closing the restaurant. At the time, he told her it was difficult to staff it and she thought he felt a bit burned out.
“It was only this past week that he said he was toying around with finding a new location,” she said.
The Pilot has been unsuccessful in reaching Newton for additional comment.
By midday Thursday, new tenant Brian Hainley had sealed the deal to purchase the Double Eagle kitchen equipment from Newton and signed a lease with the McPeakes for the North Sycamore Street location.
Hainley previously owned and operated Cafe Sonoma, from 2005 to 2007 in Southern Pines, and then the upscale Belle, located in Nashville, before returning to Moore County a few years back to live near family.
His brother, Brad, is a second-generation owner of Sandhills Heating & Refrigeration, where Brian has worked most recently as the company’s chief financial officer.
He plans to open a breakfast and lunch spot, naming it in honor of his son Mason. Doors are expected to open in October.
“Cuisine wise it will be a new take on Southern staples all made from scratch,” Hainley said. “Homemade buttermilk biscuits, gravy with sausage, waffles and pancakes with fresh seasonal toppings. The menu will be a bit more brunchy on weekends.”
Hainley said he had been quietly looking for the right spot for a new restaurant for two years.
“I wanted a downtown storefront-style,” he said. “I had a few good prospects but had to get the timing right. With this spot, all the cards fell in place.”
His previous restaurant in Nashville was located on the historic Belle Meade Plantation. Renovating that property was a substantial endeavor with a lot of red tape, he said.
“I like historic buildings. I am not concerned about the age of this building,” Hainley said. “I think it will work fine, and this space has been a restaurant for a long time.”
He anticipates only some cosmetic work to “brighten it up a bit,” while retaining the exposed brick and other architectural features and charm. In addition to breakfast and lunch, the restaurant will have beer and wine service and will also sell their own homemade jams and pickles.
“I love the hospitality business. I am excited to get something going again on my own,” Hainely said.
McPeake said there are also some renovations underway in the space next door.
“We own a lot of old buildings. We like to renovate them and we’re in business to take care of our buildings so we can rent our spaces,” she said.
Typically they purchase properties at the point they need substantial work, and then enjoy turning them around.
“Honestly, if you talk to our 30 or so tenants in our downtown properties, I don’t think any would complain. We are more than fair,” she said.
The McPeakes have also made significant hotel investments over the years, including Hampton Inn & Suites, TownPlace Suites, and the new four-story Hilton Garden Inn that is under construction behind Aberdeen Commons shopping center.
In particular, McPeake said they’ve acquired the historic properties in downtown Aberdeen because they see the town’s potential.
“There is more walkability than people realize. And it’s got good bones,” she said. “There are lots of great shops that attract people. We just need them to come to more than one space at a time.”
“That is why we loved Double Eagle. They brought a lot of people to Aberdeen. But we can’t do anything about their issues with staff,” she added. “If they wanted to stay, we would have loved them to stay.”