Silver Lake restaurant closes its doors

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A popular Wilson eatery has closed, but the owner said he anticipates it reopening soon with new leadership.

“I don’t want people to think the restaurant was a failure,” said R&R Oyster Bar at Silver Lake owner Richard Millinder. “We were doing as well as any business five months in.”

Millinder reopened the storied eatery on Silver Lake in February with partner Rhonda Chance, but at the end of April, the partners decided to go their separate ways. Chance’s father originally had put together a deal with the goal of selling the building and the land to Millinder and Chance, but when the duo split, Millinder said the timeline for the sale was rushed.

“Once Rhonda was out of the picture, he wanted to accelerate the timeline and change the terms of the deal,” he said. “I realized it would not work well for me and make it difficult for me to make any money.”

When summer hit, the slow days at the restaurant spurred a change from hours Tuesdays through Sundays to three days a week.

“I knew summer would be slow because everybody in Wilson that has $2 in their pocket has a place at the beach, the river or the lake,” Millinder said. “Sundays and Tuesdays were our absolute slowest days and Wednesday was slow, but Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays were making money, so my hope was those regulars from our slow days would transition and come Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.”

The plan worked and Millinder drastically cut expenses, but the restaurant was taking a personal toll with missed family time and neglect of his two Raleigh businesses. He decided this week to shutter the eatery while entertaining offers to sell the restaurant.

“I just don’t like having a last hurrah,” he said. “Last Saturday was one of our best days ever, but a last hurrah event puts an exclamation point with finality on everything. I still think the restaurant can be successful.”

The 20 or so employees were notified this week about the closure. Millinder said he’s optimistic a new owner will be found in the coming weeks and the restaurant will reopen in conjunction with the filling of Silver Lake.

“I really feel like the community was starting to get behind it,” he said. “From where it was and where we were headed, I knew it was not going to be an overnight transformation. It will take time, but I truly believe the restaurant can do well if the right people get involved and decide it is in their best interest to stay.”