Rising rent forces another longtime favorite to close its doors in Plaza Midwood

CHARLOTTE — Add Soul Gastrolounge to the long list of locally-owned businesses that have been forced out by rising rent in Charlotte’s popular Plaza Midwood neighborhood.

Managing partner Andy Kastanas and wife Lesa Kastanas announced on July 21 that the longtime restaurant will close its doors on Aug. 14.

The couple was notified this spring that the building at 1500 Central Avenue — home to their businesses Sister, Tattoo and Soul Gastrolounge — would be going up for sale.

In June, the Kastanas were informed that if their businesses were to stay, the leases would be restructured with an increase in rent of 114%, from $20 per square foot to $43.

“It’s never easy to close a business,” Andy Kastanas said in a news release. “It’s emotionally and financially devastating, especially on the heels of the pandemic that our industry has hardly begun to recover from. Our staff are losing jobs and security. That level of stress can’t be understated.”

Earlier this month, the couple announced the closure of Sister (originally KiKi), an all-day European bistro. While the rebranded concept was experiencing sustained growth, when the current lease expired, the proposed rent changes made continued operation unsustainable.

“Our corner of Central and Pecan has been a magical place,” Lesa Kastanas said. “After opening in 2009, Soul quickly became a social hub; a go-to spot for meetups, celebrations and entertaining out-of-town guests.

“Creatives, artists, and musicians had rolled up their sleeves (in Plaza Midwood) and literally rebuilt the central business district by hand with a camaraderie and energy that made our business district like nowhere else,” she said. “But that energy is changing.”

Soul, which garnered national attention from publications such as The New York Times, Lonely Planet, and Thrillist, joins a long list of Plaza Midwood businesses that have been forced out by rising rent after decades in the neighborhood, including The Penguin, Boris + Natasha, Elizabeth Billiards, Book Buyers, Reggae Central, Dairy Queen, Sammy’s Deli and Roasting Company.

“It’s really difficult to walk away from a $1 million investment in a building and an idea,” Andy Kastanas said. “When the landlord sells the building, she’ll profit from the structural work we invested in it, and we’ll be left with loans for those improvements. We’ll be repaying those loans for years to come. But, we remind ourselves that we’re not alone. Many of Charlotte’s restaurants that have recently closed share our story.”

The couple is finalizing plans to relocate and reopen Soul Gastrolounge and Tattoo Lounge, with spring 2023 as the goal.

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