New downtown Wilmington beer garden seen as 'amenity' to draw workforce
A new restaurant and beer garden opened Monday in Wilmington. City officials see it as a small part of broader economic development.
The Buccini/Pollin Group’s Makers Alley restaurant and beer garden opened Monday on Orange Street in downtown Wilmington.
Megan Babcock is general manager of the new restaurant— which will serve lunch and dinner, and stay open late.
“It’s just a cool place to hang out,” she said. “We have hammocks, we have picnic tables, we have games for our guests to play — like board games, and we also have corn hole. ”
Makers Alley also has 24 beers on tap and an industrial kitchen inside a renovated 1964 Airstream trailer. Babcock says food is ordered online or at digital kiosks, and there is no waitstaff.
Makers Alley joins several other new bars and restaurants to open in the downtown in recent years — some with assistance from the City.
The City’s director of economic development, Jeff Flynn, says amenities like parks, cultural institutions and restaurants fuel economic development because they help attract a local workforce, which businesses seek when choosing a location
“The existence of places to socialize is a major consideration when people are choosing to live, and where people choose to live drives business investment,” he said.
Flynn says the City provided no financial assistance for Makers Alley. He says the City did provide assistance for Stitch House Brewery, which opened on Market Street in 2017, but is “very sensitive” to the perception citizens may have that the City is spending money on restaurants rather than focusing on issues of inequality and poverty.
“The truth of the matter is government investment in social services doesn’t necessarily decline when the private sector opens up a new bar or a restaurant,” said Flynn. “It’s not mutually exclusive. In fact, when a new restaurant or business opens up, there are services that that business needs that can provide jobs to folks directly in the community. So that’s our hope and our intention when we do focus resources on areas such as amenities.”
Flynn says he thinks there is room for more growth in Wilmington’s restaurant scene. “I think we still want more while the economy is strong, and I think market forces will dictate when enough is enough.”