Aug 25, 2023 - Food and Drink

Raleigh's nightlife is lagging

Data: Square; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Square; Chart: Axios Visuals

About 23% of bar and restaurant transactions across Raleigh using Square have occurred between 7pm and 4am so far in 2023, per data from the point-of-sale company.

  • That's just over two percentage points higher than last year, and 1.5 percentage points less than 2019 — before the pandemic wreaked havoc on the dining industry.

Why it matters: The data is yet another reminder that our city is still struggling to recover from the economic hit it took from the pandemic. Raleigh has been much slower to bounce back than other cities across the country.

  • The data also shows that our city doesn't have much of a nightlife scene compared to cities across the country.

The big picture: There are some signs that we're becoming a "nation of early birds," as the Wall Street Journal recently put it, in part because the pandemic shifted how we spend our time.

Yes, but: Nightlife scenes in other U.S. cities are seeing a greater number of Square transactions after 7pm than even before 2020.

  • In Richmond, just 23% of transactions occurred in the evening and late into the night in 2019. That number is now more than 35%.
  • Just over 31% of transactions in 2019 were after 7pm in Charlotte, but it bounced back to 34% this year.
  • Even Fayetteville, Arkansas saw a post-pandemic bump: From 22% in 2019 to 32% this year.

Of note: Square can't capture all transactions across all venues in a given city — it only knows about those made using its platform and tech.

  • Still, its use is widespread enough for its data to point to broad trends.

What we're watching: One complaint often heard from residents is that there is a lack of real late-night options for eating — save Waffle House.

  • A new diner catering to night owls could be on the way, however.
  • Prospects, which is taking over the former Rainbow Luncheonette spot, plans to serve food until 3:30am, Raleigh Magazine reported last month.

The bottom line: We may be one of the country's fastest-growing cities, but we're still pretty sleepy.


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