February 21, 2024

🀝 Good morning and welcome to Wednesday.

πŸŒ…Weather: Cold early, with wind chill values as low as 26Β°, before warming up to a sunny 58Β°.

Today's Smart Brevityℒ️ count is 862 words β€” a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: The slow return of late-night eats

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The pandemic made us early birds when it comes to eating out, and many restaurants have scaled back their hours in response.

Why it matters: Rising inflation and the effects of COVID-19 reoriented the restaurant industry, giving diners fewer late-night bite options.

  • But pandemic-related staffing shortages have improved somewhat and the economy appears to be avoiding a recession, making some business owners a little more confident in keeping their kitchens open late.

Driving the news: This week, for the first time since 2020, Alley Twenty Six in Durham began offering hot food until 2am, owner Shannon Healy told Axios, after customers kept requesting it.

  • Healy restarted the late-night menu because "our belief now is that the market is there for it."

Yes, but: Healy says it remains a risky proposition for any business β€” and it's helped Alley Twenty Six that other nearby spots, like Queeny's and The Velvet Hippo, have extended their late-night hours, too.

  • Prospects, a new upscale diner in Raleigh's Glenwood South, also plans to add a late-night menu, with chef Alex Ricci bemoaning how many people in the food industry were forced to eat fast food after their shifts.
  • "I was tired of my friends telling me they were waiting in the Cook Out line late at night, so I decided to do something about it," Ricci told Axios earlier this year.

What happened: The pandemic hasn't ended for most restaurants, Healy says. Many still have debt from taking on loans to stay open and inflation has made some diners wary of eating out.

  • Many restaurants are still recovering financially and can't afford to have extra workers standing around in hopes that late-night diners will arrive.
  • And most restaurants' prepandemic night owls have simply stopped their late-night eating habits.

What they're saying: "The people that are out later now are the younger set β€” the 20-somethings," Healy says. "All of those people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, myself included, are doing earlier things now."

Share this story

2. Triangle's air quality could worsen

Estimated days with unhealthy air quality, 2024
Data: First Street Foundation; Note: Maximum count of days with unhealthy air quality from anywhere within each county; Map: Axios Visuals

Harmful air quality days in Wake County are expected to increase over the next 30 years, Axios Generate's Andrew Freedman reports from new research.

  • Based on current climate conditions, there will be an estimated two days with an air quality index (AQI) of 100 or higher in 2024, compared to three in 2054, per a new report from nonprofit First Street Foundation.
  • Locally, Orange, Johnston and Chatham counties are expected to see similar increases, while Durham is forecasted to remain roughly the same.

The big picture: After decades of progress in the U.S. toward cleaner air, climate change-related extreme events will cause a steady nationwide deterioration through 2054.

The intrigue: The Triangle's air quality has actually improved over the past decade.

  • But an increase in large wildfires in the West, along with heat waves and drought, are already yielding a growing "climate penalty" to air quality, the report finds.

Flashback: Last summer's Canadian wildfires, for example, spread all along the East Coast, causing AQI levels of more than 150 in parts of the Triangle.

Yes, but: The effects of this penalty are not evenly distributed around the country, and North Carolina's air quality will not worsen as much as other states'.

  • The West Coast β€” specifically Washington, Oregon and California β€” is projected to see the biggest increase in days with air quality indices above 100.

Share this story

3. The Tea: St. Aug's future

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

πŸŽ“ Saint Augustine's University's financial woes could threaten its ability to stay open, its president said at a press conference. (News & Observer πŸ”’)

  • The historically Black college in Raleigh said it might have to lay off workers and enroll fewer students until finances stabilize.

πŸ›£οΈ Raleigh is finalizing plans to remake Lake Wheeler Road between South Saunders Street and Maywood Avenue and add roundabouts. (Triangle Business Journal πŸ”’)

🚌 A Durham school bus driver is being honored for getting 23 kids safely off a bus that caught fire last week. (ABC11)

❌ N.C. State's Poe Hall will remain closed the rest of the year due to concerns over chemical exposure. (ABC11)

4. Durham calls for Israel-Hamas ceasefire

The Durham City Council on Feb. 19. Photo: City of Durham livestream

Durham became the second city in North Carolina β€” after Carrboro β€” to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, after a split vote early yesterday morning, CBS 17 reported.

Why it matters: Pro-Palestinian activists have been coming to city council meetings across the Triangle in recent weeks calling for such action.

Driving the news: The 5-2 vote came at 1am, with Mayor Leonardo Williams and Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton voting against it.

Share this story

Stay booked and busy

πŸ“… Upcoming events around the city.

Warehouse Liquidation Sale Extended at 5301 F Capital Blvd; now through Saturday. They have extended their liquidation of luxury outdoor furniture, umbrellas, cantilevers, and pool furniture. Stop by one of their Charlotte showrooms this week to save up to 70% off selected items and more.

Hosting an event? Email [email protected].

5. ❄️ Stat du jour: The Triangle's snowless streak

An aerial view of Carter-Finley Stadium during Raleigh's last snow in 2022. Photo: Lance King/Getty Images

The Triangle has now experienced its third-longest snow drought, ABC11 reports.

By the numbers: Tuesday marked 752 days β€” or more than two years β€” since the last measurable snow fall at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

  • The only longer snow droughts here were for nearly three years between 1948-1950 and a period of 1,164 days between Dec. 14, 1989 and Feb. 19, 1994, the television station noted.

Share this story

🍝 Zachery is feeling pretty mixed about the zucchini pasta he tried last night. Anyone got any tips on how to cook that?

🌯 Share this newsletter with a friend who needs a late-night snack.

This newsletter was edited by Jen Ashley and copy edited by Lucia Maher.