Price’s Chicken Coop is closing
The beloved, nearly 60-year-old restaurant in South End is closing its doors this Saturday.
Price’s Chicken Coop, the iconic cash-only, walk-up Southern fried chicken joint in South End, is closing its doors, the restaurant announced Thursday morning.
The news quickly spread throughout the city, and led to lines out the door and well down the street as people waited up to 2 1/2-hours outside their beloved restaurant.
“It is with heavy hearts that The Chicken Coop has decided to close our doors after 59 years of business due to the Labor shortage, rising food costs, food quality and another coin shortage,” the Facebook post read. “We thank everybody for their support and business over the years!”
Price’s final day of business will be Saturday, June 19.
The Camden Road restaurant with the squat brick storefront has changed little since the early 1960s. It has long stood out among shiny office buildings, hip new eateries and towering, luxury apartments in South End. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” co-owner Steven Price told the Observer in 2017.
Speaking for many, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles tweeted her dismay at the restaurant’s closing: “We’re sad to say goodbye to a staple and icon of Charlotte!… For almost six decades, Price’s filled bellies and put smiles on the faces of our residents with some of the best chicken around! We’ll always remember you!”
Co-owner Steven Price was working behind the counter Thursday, and had little time to talk to reporters while dealing with the outpouring of community support.
“I need some rest. I need some family time,” he said, when asked about the decision to close Price’s doors.
“I have mixed emotions,” Price said. “I’ll miss my customers.”
Patience and praise from customers
Thirty-year-old Amanda Bottoms was one of the people in the line snaking down the block at Price’s Thursday.
She came down to replace her Price’s T-shirt, worn-out now from many years of wear. Bottoms first ate at the restaurant when she was about 7 years old, she said, when her grandparents brought her down to “the coop” for lunch on a day out in the South End.
Since then, she said, she’s watched the restaurant’s block transform and move away from small, mom-and-pop shops. “They’ve been a staple in the west side of Charlotte for the longest,” Bottoms said, adding that there was “nothing bad” on its simple menu, from the fish dinner to the chicken gizzards.
Germanico and Libia Teran delayed a trip to the beach to make one last stop at the restaurant and pick up some fried chicken for friends.
“For us, it’s one of the best fried chickens in the country,” Germanico said.
He’s been a loyal Price’s patron for more than two decades. “We don’t come into town often, but when we heard the news, we left (and came here).”
Charlotte native Lee Gray has been coming by the restaurant for even longer, citing his first visit about 25 years ago. He waited more than two hours to order on Thursday.
“I don’t know if I’d do it again, but I’m glad I did,” he said. “It’s the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.”
Concern over Price’s fate not new
The restaurant has been very popular with celebrities — from Cam Newton to Jay Leno — as well as lunch crowds and several generations of Charlotteans.
But Price’s fate has been the subject of speculation and consternation for years in rapidly changing and expanding South End, with sky high property values driving out many of its neighbors.
And restaurants around Charlotte and the country have been struggling to find enough workers to keep operating during the pandemic. That heightened concern over Price’s and other popular places.
During the pandemic, restaurants around Charlotte offered profit-sharing options, signing bonuses of up to $1,000 and other perks to new hires as they scrambled to fill positions as just as the state ended most COVID-19 restrictions and customers began dining out in higher numbers .
Even larger chains like Bojangles struggled to round out their payrolls.
“The labor shortage is an industry-wide issue we’re all working through right now, which is why Bojangles is piloting several initiatives to attract and retain employees,” Stacey McCray, a spokeswoman for the chicken and biscuit chain based in Charlotte, told the Observer in May.
The community reacts: ‘What a loss!!!’
As soon as news broke about the restaurant’s fate, people took to social media immediately. Late in the afternoon, more than 1,800 people had commented on Price’s Facebook page about the closure.
Also on Price’s Facebook page, the restaurant noted that someone had created a GoFundMe page claiming to represent the restaurant but he said Price’s had not authorized the account nor knows the person behind it.
Meanwhile the praise kept coming in.
“Wow, goodbye “historic” South End. Bottle shop to soon take its place.” Trent Youngling stated, while another person, Kimberly Renee (@reelsistas), tweeted, “I. Am. Devastated. Call your Charlotte folks, we are not okay.”
On Facebook, Eric Lavonas simply said, “Best fried chicken anywhere. What a loss!!”
And customer Rick Phillips wrote on Price’s page, saying Price’s is a Charlotte institution. “…One of the few “old Charlotte” places left! And that fried chicken really is the BEST in the city!! Gonna miss this place!!! Thank you for all the years and great food! Long live Prices Chicken Coop!”
An earlier version of this story had the incorrect date for Price’s last day. It is Saturday June 19.
Staff writers Melissa Oyler and Adam Bell contributed
This story was originally published June 17, 2021 10:28 AM.