INDY Week 3.24.21

Page 1

Raleigh | Durham | Chapel Hill March 24, 2021



K I T C H E N Scott Crawford on his journey to sobriety and why the restaurant industry should reimagine its relationship with alcohol AS TO L D TO L E I G H TAU S S , P . 14

Raleigh W Durham W Chapel Hill VOL. 38 NO. 10



A Durham city employee was fired over charges he says are false. Now, he wants his job back. BY THOMASI MCDONALD


Raleigh grapples with community engagement.

10 Bills targeting immigrants are back. 11



The American Recue Plan will be a game changer for N.C. children. BY GEOFF WEST


Scott Crawford on a healthier future for the restaurant industry. AS TOLD TO LEIGH TAUSS


Carrboro United celebrates one year of business. BY SARAH EDWARDS

19 Pocket Gallery breathes new life into a neighborhood corner. BY EMMA KENFIELD

20 Raleigh arts nonprofits get a new lease on life. BY BRIAN HOWE 21

Bob Odenkirk goes full beast mode in Nobody.


THE REGULARS 3 15 Minutes

4 Op-Ed


COVER Photo by Jade Wilson


Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald


Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño

Editor in Chief Jane Porter Managing Editor Geoff West Senior Writer Leigh Tauss

Copy Editor Abigail O'Neill Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods

Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards


March 24, 2021

Contributors Jameela F. Dallis, Michaela Dwyer, Grant Golden, Spencer Griffith, Lucas Hubbard, Brian Howe, Kyesha Jennings, Glenn McDonald, Anna Mudd, Dan Ruccia, Nick Williams Interns Emma Lee Kenfield



Creative Director

Director of Sales John Hurld

Annie Maynard Graphic Designer

Jon Fuller Staff Photographer

Jade Wilson

Raleigh Sales Manager MaryAnn Kearns

INDY Week |


P.O. Box 1772 • Durham, N.C. 27702 Durham: 320 East Chapel Hill Street, #200 Durham, N.C. 27701 | 919-286-1972 Raleigh 919-832-8774 Durham 919-286-1972 Classifieds 919-286-6642

Raleigh: 227 Fayetteville Street, #105 Raleigh, N.C. 27601 | 919-832-8774

E M A I L A D D R E SS E S first initial[no space]last

C I RC U L ATI O N Berry Media Group

Contents © 2020 INDY Week All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced without permission.


We big





it’s bringing 1,000 jobs to downtown Durham on our website last week. Some Facebook commenters are

not thrilled. “Oh no!,” wrote commenter LESLIE DREYER. “This is terrible news, especially in a state where rent control is illegal and in a city with rents doubling in majority Black and Brown neighborhoods already. Big Tech ruins every city they touch. Bay Area, Austin, Seattle, and now Miami are dealing with skyrocketing rents and massive displacement due to tech-infused inequality and the real estate vultures capitalizing on the influx of wealth. Also these jobs aren’t for folks from Durham, especially those with income and housing insecurity. Residents are going to have to fight to repeal the ban on rent control at the state level and protect tenants asap. Berlin successfully stopped a Google campus coming in, and there have been years of protests in the Bay Area against tech-gentrification. Yes, it’s only 1,000 jobs over time thus far here, but that’s how the trickle started in Austin, and now the city is totally unaffordable to low-income and even many middle income folks.” “I guess this explains who can afford to live in all the expensive apartments going up around downtown,” wrote LAURA WINDLEY. “They know moving to an anti union right to work state is where they can have total control over their employees,” wrote CHRIS JAY. And, finally, “Good bye chances of buying a house anytime soon...the market now is horrible enough with houses going 20-70k over asking,” wrote JEN DARRAGH. Writer Thomasi McDonald also wrote about a rash of robberies in the Bull City targeting Hispanic residents for the website. Facebook commenters say gentrification and economic inequality is the reason for crime. “Man ... Durham is just getting so crazy,” wrote JEFFREY DAVID ZACKO-SMITH. “I swear much of it has to do with gentrification and rampant economic inequality. All these developers buying lots or small bungalows for $125,000, putting a $150,000 “modern masterpiece” on it and selling it to someone for $650,000. Please.”




15 MINUTES Danielle James, 32 Neon artist and owner of Hex Art BY EMMA KENFIELD

How did you discover your passion and skill for neon art? I have a graduate degree in metalsmithing from ECU. So that is actually the very strange door that I used to enter neon. That led me to a shop in Atlanta, Georgia, called The Neon Company. They were nice enough to give me a two-week, kind of, “Yeah, you can come sweep our floors and check it out,” internship. And I fell in love with it.

Your work highlights human beings’ relationships in times of social media. I was born in ‘88. I remember I was in high school when I got a cell phone. So I had a childhood without a screen, and that has impacted me—being the last remnant of remembering those things, but still growing up with social media. Online dating has been a part of my entire life. It’s how most of us now, I think, find people to hang out with. The first time that I got into actually making neon signs for my art form, I was in Raleigh at a place called Glas. I was given the opportunity to make a series of works based on messages that I got on OkCupid and Tinder, and that turned into a series called “Signs of the Times: A Single Lady’s Life in Neon.” There’s 12 of them. They range from serious, to goofy, to funny, to like, really gross. I’ve gotten a lot of really positive feedback from it. That was the first series of work that I feel highlighted what it is to be human, in this age, from my perspective.


You’re offering some classes to the public. How’s that going? Right now, I’m offering a one-night “Neon Date Night” for two people for two-and-a-half hours. You get to take home a 16-inch neon sign. Right now, I’m kind of doing different colored paper airplanes. But if you contact me a little more in advance, and you want something specific—like, I did a heart for a couple recently, and it’s all one price. It’s the history and entire process included.

What is your ultimate goal with neon art? My goal is to offer repair services and custom neon services. More than that, my goal is to educate people about this endangered craft that is neon, glassblowing, and bending. We need to have more people getting interested in it and supporting local neon artists, if it’s going to survive the way that blacksmithing and basket weaving survived in their artistic ways. Saving what’s around still from that time period, and also educating everybody about how every single neon sign that you see was built by a person. If we could have been replaced by a machine, by now we would have. W

March 24, 2021


OP - E D Raleigh's Community Bookstore

Listen to the latest podcasts on Bookin’

Larry Olmsted, Fans: How Watching Sports Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Understanding



Virtual Event



Congressman David Price, The Congressional Experience: An Institution Transformed With Rob Christensen, 7pm

All events are online. Register for Quail Ridge Books Virtual Events Series at • 919.828.1588 • North Hills 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road, Raleigh, NC 27609 Offering FREE Media Mail shipping and contactless pickup!

To advertise or feature a pet for adoption, please contact


March 24, 2021

N.C.’s Second Chance Act Needs Work North Carolina must seek bolder expungement reforms to reduce recidivism BY ADAM ROSENBLUM


orth Carolina’s Second Chance Act, while promising, will not reduce the state’s recidivism rate—the rate at which people with past convictions reoffend. At present, approximately 40 percent of those who are convicted of an offense are arrested again within three years of release. As the studies cited below show, by making expungements more accessible, North Carolina could give people the chance to fully reenter society and avoid getting stuck in a cycle of reoffending. In December 2020, the Second Chance Act took effect, revising the state’s expungement laws, which allow people to clear their criminal records if they meet certain conditions. The new laws allow records to be cleared for those convicted when they were 16 or 17 and expand the list of crimes that are eligible to be cleared. This progress is not likely to be enough to have a noticeable impact on recidivism. Despite this, North Carolina is still one of the most restrictive states when it comes to expungement for minor crimes. A comprehensive study by the attorneys at Rosenblum Law found the state has the seventh-toughest expungement laws in the country. The study used the charge of shoplifting goods valued at $200 as the basis for its rankings, which evaluated the length of time a person needs to wait to file the petition and the cost of filing as two of the criteria. One key thing the Second Chance Act failed to address was the waiting period, which is arguably the most critical aspect of the issue. In North Carolina, a person must wait anywhere from two months to 10 years to have a conviction cleared and the waiting period usually begins after the sentence is completed. Multiple stud-

“North Carolina is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to expungment for minor crimes.” ies, including ones from Harvard University and State University of New York at Albany, show that the ability to get a job has the greatest impact on whether or not a person reoffends. Steady, reliable work is the first step to reintegrating into society and leaving behind one’s past transgressions. Unfortunately, a criminal record can severely hinder a person’s ability to get a decent-paying job. It’s estimated that about 96 percent of employers conduct background checks on job applicants. It’s no wonder that even before the pandemic, the Prison Policy Institute calculated the unemployment rate among the formerly incarcerated to be 27 percent. Research also shows that these criminal records disproportionately affect minorities. The NAACP writes that African American job applicants are twice as likely as white applicants to lose a job over the same type of conviction. This is

echoed by two studies from the National Institute for Justice, which found that only five percent of African Americans with convictions received callbacks for jobs, compared to 17 percent of white Americans with convictions. Latino job applicants face similar hurdles. Of course, North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety has numerous reentry programs that include job training, job placement, and even help starting a new business. All available data shows these are effective. However, these programs have limited enrollment capacity. Moreover, the state simply cannot train or secure employment for every former inmate. Those who are able to get their criminal record cleared are better able to turn their lives around. A University of Michigan Law School study shows that those who received an expungement saw earnings increase by 20 percent on average, as unemployed former inmates found work and those who were minimally employed secured steadier jobs. If most people who reoffend do so within the first three years of their release, then an expungement of the criminal record for nonviolent offenses must happen sooner. This would allow people to reintegrate into society more quickly and effectively rather than falling into an endless cycle of crime. North Carolina politicians must find the courage to reduce the waiting period for an expungement for minor crimes in order to truly reduce recidivism and give people the second chance they truly deserve.W Adam Rosenblum is the founding attorney of Rosenblum Law, a general law practice with offices in New York and New Jersey.


Durham Johnny Ray Lynch PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

Unfair Game A former Durham city employee was fired due to charges he says are bogus. He wants his old job back. BY THOMASI MCDONALD


efore dawn on Thanksgiving morning, the police accused Johnny Ray Lynch of breaking into an internet cafe in East Durham. But Lynch says he wasn’t breaking into the City of Gold. He says he was locked inside and trying to get out when he tripped the alarm. Officers entered the dark building and found him inside of a ceiling heating duct in the bathroom. Two felony charges are bad enough, but Lynch also lost his job as a supervisor with the City of Durham’s street maintenance division. He was a city employee for nearly 17 years. The day after his arrest, Lynch called his direct supervisor and told him what happened. “He told me when I came back to work to let the [head] supervisor know,” Lynch said. “He said, ‘Keep me posted, but you good.’”

Not really. Lynch, 48, filed a grievance with the city that states he was wrongfully fired for breaking a law for “which I am not guilty of and haven’t been found guilty [of].” He wants “to be rehired with full benefits, back pay, and an apology” from the street maintenance division’s director. City spokeswoman Beverly Thompson told the INDY that she could not specifically comment about Lynch’s firing because it is a personnel matter. But Thompson shared the city’s administrative leave policy that was used to determine Lynch’s employment status. The policy states that if an employee is charged with any criminal offense—excluding traffic violations, serious performance issues, or is under investigation for

“possible serious misconduct”—then the city can place the worker on administrative leave with pay for up to 10 days. A second option allows the city to reassign an employee “until closure is brought regarding the allegations.” Lynch’s supervisors and other city officials concluded that neither of those options were “appropriate due to the nature of the allegations” in accordance with the leave policy and so exercised a third option: the street maintenance supervisor could be suspended without pay or terminated. On December 18, Lynch’s supervisors fired him for violating the city’s employee ethics code. “The evidence against Mr. Lynch is compelling, [and] is in conflict with the statement provided by Mr. Lynch to divisional management and is representative of gross misconduct,” his direct supervisor stated in the termination letter. But evidence of Lynch’s innocence is also compelling and casts doubt that he actually broke into the City of Gold. It was near closing time on November 26 at The Pickleback bar in downtown Durham, where Lynch and several of his friends had been drinking. “We left at closing,” Lynch says. “Then we stopped over at the sweepstakes [cafe] at Lakewood Shopping Center.” Lynch enjoys sitting down at the electronic fishing tables, where patrons sit or stand, plunk money down for the chance to use a joystick, and “shoot” at electronic fish, monster crabs, dragons, and mermaids swirling across the animated, vividly-colored table surface. “If you kill it, you get the money,” Lynch explains about the fish targets. “There is really no limit on how much you can win; $5,000, $8,000. I won $10,000 playing. Another time I won $14,000.” Lynch says they found a heavy internet parlor crowd at Lakewood, so he and his friends headed to City of Gold, a black box of a room with three fishing tables. The red brick parlor with black-tinted windows is tucked inside of a strip mall just off of North Miami Boulevard. “I rode with a buddy of mine,” he says. “I really [wasn’t] feeling good, so I went to the bathroom. I was sick from

March 24, 2021




March 24, 2021

the drinking.” Lynch says he was in the bathroom “a good little minute.” “When I finished up, I stepped out. Everybody was gone,” he explains. “The place was locked up.” “I mean, for real, for real?,” he describes as his first thoughts upon stepping into an empty room suddenly gone dark, except for the glowing fish tables. “I thought everyone had stepped outside to go smoke.” “But I was wrong,” he says. “The door was locked. So I looked through the window to see if anyone was outside.” He pressed his face against the blackened window and could barely see out. No one was outside, certainly not his friend, who left while he was in the bathroom. Lynch says he started walking around looking for something—anything—to help him escape the City of Gold. He peered at the dark ceiling before walking back into the bathroom, standing on the toilet, and pulling himself into a heating duct. That’s when he heard voices outside and someone with keys opening the front door. It was the police. A City of Gold employee accompanied the officers and opened the door for them. The cops found Lynch still in the bathroom heating duct. “They ordered me to come down,” Lynch says. “I was scared to death. I thought they were going to shoot me because they had their guns drawn.” Lynch tried to explain his predicament to the cops. But the officers weren’t having it, especially after they noted damage to the front door and an ATM. They placed him under arrest. He was charged with one felony count each of breaking and entering, and possession of burglary tools. Downtown, Lynch again explained what had happened to a sympathetic magistrate. Lynch’s past criminal history includes convictions for breaking into cars when he was 16, felony drug possession at 18, and when he was 20, trying to pawn a leaf blower owned by a Raleigh company where he worked at the time. “The magistrate looked at my record and said it was pretty clean,” says Lynch, who was allowed to sign himself out of jail after he was given a $12,000 unsecured bond. Despite his youthful indiscretions, the city thought enough of Lynch to offer him a job in 2004. “Back then I was a road worker,” Lynch says.

“I was in the bathroom a good little minute. When I finished up, I stepped out. Everybody was gone. The place was locked up.” He was first promoted as a crew chief, and then, in 2016, he was promoted to senior maintenance crew supervisor. “I was a model employee,” he says. “I always had good evaluations.” Lynch’s work with the city allowed him to buy a home in East Durham in 2012. He’s a single father raising a 16-year-old son and a two-year-old boy. Soon after his arrest, Lynch started gathering evidence to prove his innocence and save his job. Lynch is proud of his work. He participated in the orientation of new workers and says he can operate every piece of heavy machinery in the street maintenance division, including motor graders, excavators, backhoes, and front-end loaders. He’s a veritable Picasso in the art of paving streets, repairing roads, potholes, addressing pavement failures, and resurfacing gravel streets. On December 10, Lynch obtained a sworn affidavit with a City of Gold letterhead from an employee who stated that Lynch was forgotten in the bathroom and set off the alarm when he attempted to leave. “At approximately 2:30 a.m. we had closed the business and rushed out to head home,” the manager stated. “Doing so we neglected to check the store before

leaving to make sure everyone was out. We were in a rush ... because we had a long drive home to Goldsboro. “Mr. Lynch did not break into the facility, he was locked in,” the manager added. “We will not be pursuing any criminal charges or restitution in this matter.” Later, on February 1, Lynch submitted three more affidavits to his former supervisors, including one from a City of Gold manager. “Mr. Lynch did not damage anything on the premises, and I am willing to testify at his upcoming court hearing,” the manager wrote. As for the alleged burglary tools, a second affidavit on February 21 states that “the tool bag and items in question that were confiscated by the Durham Police Department ... do in fact belong to the business center.” Lynch says he participated in a virtual four-hour grievance hearing on February 8 that included one of his supervisors, an employee from street maintenance, and two other city workers from a different department. “I told them the same thing in the Zoom meeting,” he says. “I got accidentally locked in the building.” Mohann Saleh, the City of Gold co-owner, spoke on his behalf during the meeting. “The whole point was him getting fired before he was found guilty,” Saleh told the INDY. “They fired him prematurely.” Saleh said that rather than focusing on Lynch’s claim of innocence, the city employees—particularly his former supervisors—questioned him about his ownership of the business. “And they kept attacking Johnny,” he added. “Johnny was telling the truth, but they didn’t like the truth.” Lynch says his direct supervisor tried to make a mockery of the hearing. “He was trying to talk like me, and saying my statement didn’t match up with the [arresting] officer’s statement,” Lynch says. “It wasn’t supposed to match up. I’m innocent.” The city did not respond to the INDY’s request for comment regarding Saleh’s and Lynch’s caharcterization of the hearing. Lynch is awaiting the city’s decision. He went to court last week. His case has been continued until further notice due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, he remains proud of his work, offering the INDY pictures of him working on the city’s streets and roads. “When I walked out of the hearing,” he says, “I told them it was an honor working with them.” W

March 24, 2021




Rules of Engagement Something like CACs will be part of Raleigh’s enhanced community engagement strategy— but city leaders say community groups are just one piece of the overall puzzle BY JANE PORTER


t’s been a little over a year since Raleigh’s city council abolished its support for citizen advisory councils (CACs) in an unannounced vote. Now, the city is getting a framework in place to engage Raleigh residents in new ways it hopes will be more far-reaching, inclusionary, and effective. But, even with a year-long community engagement study that cost upwards of $70,000, the specter of the CACs, which still operate without city support, continues to loom large. In his 18-page report to the city council last week, Mickey Fearn—the consultant the city hired to study and make recommendations on how the city can best engage its residents with government processes and initiatives—all but suggests resurrecting CACs, or “community and neighborhood organizations,” alongside several other actionable initiatives. “Whatever is going to replace the CACs, whatever it’s going to look like or do what they did, then the city needs to provide support for those organizations,” Fearn told the council during his final presentation at its meeting on March 16. Throughout the study process, Fearn noted a lack of trust between citizens and the city council, as well as frustration and resentment, tied to the council’s decision to withdraw its support of the nearly 50-year-old citizen groups without public input. He also noted the problems that existed with the 18 CACs, including the way they unevenly engaged citizens. Some were too large, comprising tens of thousands of households across massive geographical 8

March 24, 2021

areas, while some were small, comprising just a few thousand households in a handful of neighborhoods. People who attended different CACs had different concerns, such as planning and zoning in wealthier CACs versus concerns about basic human services, like food deserts, education, and crime, in poorer areas. There were also logistical problems: meetings often occurred on weekday evenings, and it could be difficult for CACs to find volunteers to lead them. “The challenge with the historical CAC structure is that it was not necessarily inclusionary in that it was not the entire umbrella for all the things that needed to go on in community engagement in the city,” Fearn said at the meeting. “But the function that it served was absolutely critical ... That structure is fine as long as it doesn’t pretend to be the total of community engagement in the city … because there are so many activities and things that need to be done other than what the CACs did.” In his report, Fearn also recommends assembling two committees, one internal and one external, for community engagement. The committees will start out small, Fearn says, and grow to add more members as needed. “Initially, the [external] task force will be comprised of individuals who have shown significant interest in the future of community engagement in Raleigh,” Fearn told the INDY in an email. “They are constituents with whom I have been engaged over the last year. Some of them were allies, some adversaries, a few have been both. We are also engaging ethnic and cultural community organizations, N.C. State, the

Downtown Raleigh


Raleigh Chamber, and a few other community organizations.” Christina Jones, head of the Raleigh CAC grassroots organization as it exists today, told the INDY that she was invited to serve on the external community engagement task force, along with seven other CAC leaders. She sees Fearn’s report as seeming to propose reestablishing CACs in that it suggests creating community organizations to work with various city departments, such as Housing and Neighborhoods, Planning, and Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources, with city funding. “It recommends exactly what CACs were, so I am confused,” Jones says. “I’m not against creating something new, not at all. But I’m confused as to why CACs had to be disbanded for an entire year before we came up with that.” Still, Jones says, she has been thinking about ways to make these new community organizations better, including potentially aligning them with the city’s 28 community centers, therefore serving 10 more locations across the city than the 18 CACs reached. Jones also supports another major recommendation in Fearn’s report: the creation of a city office or department ded-

icated to community engagement that answers directly to the city manager. A member of the city’s parks advisory board, Jones says a department dedicated to engaging citizens would be helpful to city staffers who are tasked, simultaneously, with having to create major plans for city projects and having to engage citizens with those plans. “Staff are trying to do so much to develop an entire plan, and to ask them to do community engagement, too, is unfair,” Jones says. “A department dedicated to that would help so many within city departments, as well as residents of the city.” The mayor and several council members told the INDY last week that creating a community engagement office is a top priority for the council and will be funded in this year’s city budget. “We feel that elevating [a community engagement] office under the city manager’s office sends a message of value,” says Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin. There was no cost estimate for the proposal in Fearn’s report, but Baldwin says the community engagement initiatives will likely occur gradually. “We don’t know what the numbers look like yet, but we’ve talked about a potential-

ly phased approach in two budget years,” she says. Council member Jonathan Melton says he sees the proposal for renewed city support for community organizations in Fearn’s report as a move toward a more decentralized way of communicating with citizens. “There are multiple ways to get information to folks,” Melton says. “Folks will look towards their community organizations for information, and the city is working to do a better job of being more accessible. We’ve talked a lot about trying to find people where they are. How do we find that person that works the third shift and can’t go to a neighborhood meeting? How do we reach the person who has two jobs, or is a single parent? Or the person who has been disengaged? I think Mickey’s report speaks more to that work.” Council member David Cox, whose vote was one of two against abolishing city support for CACs last February, is not enthused about the prospect of creating a new city department to facilitate community engagement. “The formation of a community engagement department will simply continue to obfuscate and shove serious community engagement out of sight and out of mind,” Cox wrote in an email to the INDY. He said the city is worse off for community engagement than it was a year ago and that he’s disappointed in the community engagement report, which he found “lacking in specifics.” Cox was a major proponent of the CACs and advocated for reforming them. At a work session in October, when Fearn presented an update on his community engagement study, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said that, over the last decade, the council tried several times to reform CACs, with no success. “Attempts were made to unify, regulate, and make [CACs] more friendly toward members of the community who did not participate,” Baldwin said at the time. “There was resistance to change. If we could change CACs, we would have.” With Fearn’s final report in the hands of city staff, and recommendations to the internal and external committees to be completed this week, recommendations for specific actions, such as how to create and pay for a community engagement office, will go back before the council in May. “I want to stress that anyone who wants to engage can,” Fearn wrote in his email to the INDY. “As our work plan becomes more defined, we will be establishing groups to lead various aspects of the work plan. In addition, anyone is invited, and encouraged, to contact [city staff] and [me] any time they have a contribution to make.” W

March 24, 2021



North Carolina

More of the Same Two bills in the N.C. General Assembly threaten immigrant families. If it feels like we’ve been here before, it’s because we have. BY SARA PEQUEÑO


ones Street was screaming on a recent Tuesday afternoon. In front of the legislative building, the scene was chaotic—cars honking against each other, moving slower than the water droplets rolling off of the signs taped to their windows and hoods. “Stop Terrorizing Immigrant Families,” the signs read. “STOP S.B. 101.” “CARAVANA EN CONTRA DE S.B. 101 & H.B. 62.” As the blinking cars circled the block, El Colectivo NC representatives held a press conference inside the building to oppose two bills that immigrant advocates are urging Governor Roy Cooper to veto. Senator Wiley Nickel, a Democrat from Cary, recalled that Cooper vetoed similar legislation in 2019. The governor called it “partisan political pandering” with the intention of “scoring partisan political points, and using fear to divide North Carolina.” “Now, version 2.0 is just more of the same,” Nickel said. In February, Republicans in both legislative chambers filed bills aiming to force local governments to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Nickel referred to Senate Bill 101, entitled “Require Cooperation with ICE 2.0.” The second bill, House Bill 62, is known as “Gov. Immigration Compliance.” The two bills are slightly different: the House bill nullifies “sanctuary ordinances” in local communities, meaning that local law enforcement would have to enforce federal immigration laws. The Senate bill would require law enforcement to look 10

March 24, 2021

into the immigration status of anyone charged with certain crimes, such as felony drug charges, and misdemeanor or felony assaults. They’d also have to follow ICE detainers, and report the number of times they make a query to ICE, or how many times someone was detained or released because of their immigration status. “Let me be clear, H.B. 62 is just flat out terrible policy,” Representative Ricky Hurtado (D-Alamance) said at the press conference. “House Republicans want to open the floodgates to harassment and discrimination from an unlimited number of baseless lawsuits from literally anyone in the community. And the standing to sue is rooted in a concept of sanctuary [that] we don’t even have a formal definition for.” The anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies says that North Carolina has six sanctuary jurisdictions, more than any other state in the South. In our state, these jurisdictions are areas where law enforcement does not have to act on ICE detainers—which aren’t binding anyway—but policy varies across the country. Sanctuary jurisdictions comply with federal law, and don’t shield undocumented migrants from being charged with crimes, according to the American Immigration Council. North Carolina ordinances received attention when former President Donald Trump started promoting his mass deportation agenda and disdain for sanctuary cities. Buncombe and Forsyth counties enacted ordinances in February 2019; a month later, the first compliance requirement bill was filed in the state House. The 2019 bill was


ratified and sent to the governor in August of that year; he vetoed it the next day. The bill went back to the House and sat dormant for the rest of the session. At the time, state Senator Chuck Edwards (R-Buncombe) said that Cooper was siding with the Mecklenburg Sheriff’s Department after the department did not comply with a detainer for an undocumented immigrant who posted bond twice after being charged with kidnapping and assault. Edwards filed the 2021 Senate bill, which is almost wordfor-word the bill from 2019. “I cannot fathom how anybody could support shielding an illegal immigrant who rapes or murders a North Carolinian,” Edwards said in a statement. “Removing violent criminals who are here illegally should be a unanimous priority.” Despite Edwards’ feelings, multiple national studies have found no correlation between sanctuary municipalities and higher crime rates. These ordinances could actually deter crime, sociologists say, by building trust. Hurtado mentioned this Tuesday. “If this bill becomes law, it sows distrust in the immigrant community, leading to lower levels of cooperation with law enforcement and local government,” Hurtado said. Dory MacMillan, the governor’s press secretary, called the bills “unconstitutional,” and said they “will cost the state significant

resources to defend, and worse, spark fear that exploits for political gain.” If Cooper vetoes either bill, it’s unlikely that Republicans could pull off an override. If they somehow did make it work, minority groups, such as those included in El Colectivo, would likely sue the state. Florida passed a similar law in 2019; multiple groups sued and the complaints are still being litigated in federal court. These also aren’t the only two anti-immigrant bills filed this session. The Verification of Immigration Status, or the SAVE Act, whose primary sponsor also authored H.B. 62, would require licensing boards and benefit services to have applicants’ immigration status verified. Undocumented migrants are already barred from licensing and benefits by the federal government. This bill is still in committee. Hurtado noted that the state and country face a lot of challenges at the moment, but immigrants going on crime sprees and abusing government benefits are not among them. “We need to prioritize what’s important for our working families, focus on economic security, access to health care, getting our kids back in school—not this political fear mongering that continues to divide us,” Hurtado said. “If we’ve learned anything in the last four years, it’s that this just puts us down a bad road.” W


North Carolina

Game Changer Anti-poverty advocates rejoice over new child tax credit BY GEOFF WEST


ore than a decade ago, Sheila Arias, a single mother in Durham, gave birth to her first child, a daughter with special needs whose medical condition required surgeries and therapies that mounted into hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt. Arias, a campaign organizer for MomsRising, says paying for the ongoing cost of care while providing for her now nineyear-old son hasn’t been easy, but recent stimulus checks have helped, and her new full-time job offers hope. “Financially, I’m going to be stable,” Arias says, “but I’m not there yet.” For Arias, and millions of other North Carolinians, additional help is on the way. Tucked inside the recently signed coronavirus relief bill was a revolutionary provision to aid families that local anti-poverty advocates have dubbed a “game-changer,” “unprecedented,” “a dream come true,” and “long overdue.” The provision included in the American Rescue Plan raises the existing federal child tax credit that families can use to reduce their tax bill from $2,000 per child to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17. The new measure also eliminates a minimum income requirement to qualify for the tax credit, opening the door to low-income earners. But the real revolution is that the credits will be paid out in monthly installments, creating almost a child allowance or guaranteed income source for families. Those fighting child poverty say this money will have a profound impact on the lives of North Carolinians. As early as July, families can expect to receive $300 a month for each child

under 6 and $250 per child under 18, a temporary benefit that will last through December although Democratic lawmakers hope to make the new credit permanent. “It’s hard to find enough superlatives to describe the significance of the American Rescue Plan, and the child tax credit in particular, in addressing child poverty,” says Michelle Hughes, executive director of NC Child, a Raleigh-based children’s advocacy group. “Most of us have never seen public policy addressing poverty on this scale in our lifetimes.” Other advocates from nonprofits working to help struggling families overcome lackluster social safety nets that don’t go far enough to aid an unacceptable number of children living in poverty share this sentiment. Sharon Goodson, executive director of the anti-poverty nonprofit North Carolina Community Action Association, says the new child tax credit “is the single most impactful legislation strategically targeted to address the needs of low-wealth children and families since President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty.” Johnson’s war on poverty initiatives included, among other things, the creation of Medicaid, food stamps, and special funding for schools in low-income areas. Similar to those anti-poverty programs, the monthly aid provided by the child tax credit will “help to eliminate some of the despair and anxiety that struggling, poor families experience every day,” Goodson says. “Having the resources to move a step beyond poverty is a dream come true for the families that we serve.”

Sheila Arias and her children


‘Unprecedented’ Aid It’s hard to overstate the significance of the expanded tax credit for low-income families. Information released by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that more than 2.6 million children in North Carolina stand to benefit from the credit, and the Center on Budget and Policy has calculated that the legislation will move 137,000 North Carolina children out of poverty. Nationwide, the credit is projected to cut in half the number of children living in so-called deep poverty—or in households whose incomes are 50 percent below the poverty line—and reduce the overall number of children in poverty by about 40 percent, according to an analysis by Niskanen Center, a center-right think tank. The new credit will cut poverty rates in part through its unique delivery system of providing half of the money through monthly allowances, with the other half available when parents file taxes next year. “Spreading out this support can provide

a comfort to parents, knowing this benefit is sustained over a period of time,” says Chance Van Noppen, executive director of Saint Saviour’s Center. “I think we all are comfortable with saying that we’re living in unique times,” he says. “Although I can’t say this level of support is surprising, it’s certainly unprecedented.”

New Qualifiers A key piece of the expanded child tax credit is the elimination of those income requirements. Previously, households had to report an annual income of at least $2,500 to qualify, and low-income earners might only qualify for a $1,400 credit rather than the maximum $2,000. Eliminating the income requirement makes the credit available to an additional 27 million children, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank. “One of the best parts of the new child tax credit is that it now includes the lowest earners—people whose incomes were

March 24, 2021


“More than 2.6 million childen in North Carolina will benefit from the child tax credit and it will move 137,000 N.C. children out of poverty.” so low they are not required to file a federal tax return,” Hughes says. “They had previously been left out of the child tax credit—now they will qualify. That is huge for kids in the very poorest families.”

Outreach Needed

BILL BURTON ATTORNEY AT LAW Un c o n t e s t e d Di vo rc e Bu s i n e s s L a w UNCONTESTED In c o r p o r a t i o n / L LC / DIVORCE Pa r t n e r s h i p MUSIC BUSINESS LAW Wi l l s INCORPORATION/LLC WILLS C o l l e c t i o n s SEPARATION AGREEMENTS Mu s i c


(919) 967-6159 12

March 24, 2021

While the changes were enacted to benefit low-income families, the monthly payments will only go to families in the IRS database. In other words, those who haven’t filed taxes because their incomes didn’t meet the minimum threshold will need to self-identify with the IRS to take advantage. For instance, a married couple who earned less than $24,800 in 2020 is not required to file federal taxes this year while a single person who earned less than $12,400 also wouldn’t need to file. “One of the greatest challenges in North Carolina will be the need for robust outreach and education, a way for low-income families who haven’t been filing taxes to file taxes, so they can be connected to this support,” says Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the Budget and Tax Center at the North Carolina Justice Center. The IRS plans to design an online system for non-filers to report their status that would identify those who qualify for the credit but are now in jeopardy of slipping through bureaucratic cracks, similar to what the IRS did to deliver stimulus checks. Details of the plan have not been released yet, however. “The trick will be implementation,” says Lisa Gennetian, professor of early learning policy studies at Duke University. “Can the IRS do this well and reach all families?”

Making It Permanent Assuming a smooth rollout, the American Rescue Plan arrived at the perfect time for families living under the stress of poverty made worse by the instability of a pandemic. “This is a bill that recognizes the suffering and unbelievable financial stress that

so many families have experienced over the last year,” Hughes says. “It targets investment toward those things that are going to boost families’ ability to raise their kids— stable income, quality childcare, increased access to health care coverage, food security. The cumulative impact of these investments is that we have stronger tools to help kids and families recover from what has been the most devastating year that we have seen in our lifetimes.” While the economic rescue package was passed in response to the economic fallout of the pandemic, supporters of the plan hope the expanded child credit will become permanent. As passed, the credit is temporary and will expire at the end of the year. “It’s about time that such a policy exists—and not just temporarily because the country’s in a crisis,” Sirota says. “We need to be doing this long term.” Democratic lawmakers have said they plan to renew the modified tax credits but may face opposition from a Republican caucus that unanimously voted against the broader $1.9 trillion rescue package. And while the credits are projected to drastically reduce child poverty levels, millions of Americans will still live below the federal poverty line. The United States lags behind other developed countries, which routinely provide generous parental leave and childcare benefits. “Whether the current stimulus package will lead to the needed long-term permanent change to address child poverty is an open question,” Gennetian says. “Millions of children were already at high economic risk before the pandemic began, especially children of color. All evidence points to how this racial poverty gap will only get worse. The stimulus package will help, but solving structural inequities will require even broader and bolder public investment.” For Arias, a permanent child allowance would at least provide an important new step toward security, giving her the ability to pay off debt and save money for family emergencies. “I would be able to do what normal parents do,” such as save for her children’s future, she says. “It brings hope.” W



Northern Orange NAACP, Hillsborough Progressives Taking Action (HPTA), and Hate-Free Schools Coalition hosted a candlelight vigil at the Old Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough Friday night. The vigil held space to honor the six Asian women who were murdered March 16 in Atlanta and also demonstrated support for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities across North Carolina. The organizers brought attention to the hyper-sexualization of Asian women and other harmful attacks AAPI communities face in the United States. W

March 24, 2021





K I T C H E N Raleigh restaurateur Scott Crawford’s journey to sobriety guides his vision for a healthier future for the industry. AS TOLD TO LEIGH TAUSS


March 24, 2021

Scott Crawford is a five-time James Beard Awards semifinalist and a leading figure in Raleigh’s burgeoning food scene. He’s also been sober for nearly 17 years. Here, Crawford recounts his own experience with addiction, grappling with sobriety in an industry dominated by drinking culture, and reimagining the industry’s future with a healthier relationship with alcohol.

I . PA R T Y I T AWAY I took my first drink when I was 11. It was whiskey, straight. I will never forget how much I enjoyed the feeling of that burn. It was warmth, confidence. It was all the things I was lacking in one sip. I knew, even at 11, that it was going to be an issue. I knew it six years later, the day I tried cocaine. I felt so good. I even said out loud, “This is going to be a problem.” I was the product of a typical 1980s divorce, which were nasty. The year I had my first drink and smoked my first joint was 1982, the year my parents divorced. As kids, we had a lot of freedom that kids don’t enjoy now, and my older brother and I would basically run the streets. You may think, “Where the hell were their parents?” They were just sort of self-absorbed. My brother was a teenager, experimenting, and I was always following right behind. I think we were experiencing a lot

" The power of being a mentor is real, and it can be abused, especially when you bring alcohol into the equation.


of pain without recognizing that it was pain. Back then, the answer was to just have a good time, not to reflect or address the pain. If you could party harder, you could party it away. It was the heyday of hair metal and Motley Crue, and we just wandered around trying to get our hands on some liquor or weed in the small steel town we lived in, Meadville, Pennsylvania. I was a skinny kid, less than 100 pounds. There was always a feeling of being lost. My brother was in jail by the time he was 18. When he came home, he was sober. But I wasn’t. We moved to Florida, and I set up shop on the beach. I decided that surfing and smoking pot was going to be my career. That’s when I started working at restaurants. It was a great way to continue that lifestyle and make money. Conch House, a little seafood place with deck seating out over the water, was where I found my friends and the people I partied with—where I found my dealers. Back then, we’d make a hundred bucks in a good shift and we might go spend half of it that night, or maybe all of it, on drugs and alcohol. I started at the front of the house but eventually took a pay cut to work in the kitchen. I realized very quickly the cooks were more like I was—these guys were interesting, rough characters with crazy stories, yet they have this craft that can be artful and really cool. I’d just never thought of cooking as a medium. By the mid-90s my drinking had gone from manageable to completely unmanageable. I lived an almost underground, nocturnal existence. I started college but dropped out and got to the point I didn’t want to work a job anymore. So, I was just partying and selling drugs, anything that turned a profit. It turned into something way bigger than peddling. I got into fights. I didn’t care if I lived or died. But there was a part of me that knew this was not going to be my life forever—it wasn’t sustainable. I saw what happened to people: you go to prison or you get shot. I relocated to Virginia and returned to cooking. Even though I really wanted to get my life together, I still couldn’t escape my demons. I made it through culinary school by white-knuckling through the week and partying my face off on the weekends. I graduated early—the first time in my life I ever got all A’s—but the night before my first tryout as a souschef, I was in a hotel room with members of the band Creed doing blow all night. I took a cab from the hotel to the restaurant and somehow got the job. By 2000, I’d made my way to the kitchen of an up-and-coming San Francisco restaurant, Black Cat. It was an inspiring city and changed the way I looked at food. Farmers were selling directly to chefs, and there was a language about food and respect shown that was just way beyond anything I had ever seen. But, behind that facade, there were servers using heroin every day. I remember one guy, he didn’t have any heroin. He asked me if he could leave to go to the methadone clinic so he could be able to work; otherwise, he’d be sick. It’s amazing, at that point, I was still holding it together, but it wasn’t easy. We hired a general manager from Miami who frequented the bar underneath the restaurant every night. Drinking after work was an ingrained part of the culture in the industry. We closed at 2 a.m.,

and I’d go sit on the patio and have a glass of sauvignon blanc and a bowl of mussels. I vividly remember sitting there one night and this girl runs out onto the sidewalk and collapses. She’s freaking out, crying, her friends are comforting her. The cops come, but I don’t know what’s just occurred. The next day, I come in and learn that she was assaulted in the restroom by our general manager. It was all over the media. I left not long after. There’s bad behavior, then there’s dark behavior. I was starting to realize just how blurred these lines were becoming. But I still didn’t stop.

II. REBIRTH After a decade of hard-partying, my body started to give out. I was 31, working very intense 60- to 80-hour weeks, just bracketed by partying-shift-partying. My skin was discolored, and I had clubbing in my fingers. My organs were starting to fail. Following a five-day bender, I realized my tongue was swollen. I couldn’t drink enough water and was peeing every five minutes. I drove myself to the hospital and remember the doctors looking at me really weird. “Your blood sugar is almost a thousand,” one told me. “We’ve never seen anyone alive with blood sugar this high. Only dead people.” I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I believe it was the direct result of my body just basically attacking itself. Even after my brush with death, it still took me a year to get sober.

Needing stability, I had been working at the Ritz-Carlton hotel company. It was a game-changer. There was a lot more structure, but “work hard, play hard” was still the motto. I regret to say I perpetuated it. Drugs and alcohol were how we dealt with the stress, which was enormous, especially when you start talking about accolades, Forbes Five Star lists, and the like. I remember one of my mentors confronted me, saying, “You’re failing as a role model.” “I didn’t sign up to be a role model,” I scoffed. “Listen to yourself, idiot,” he replied. “When you become a chef, you become a role model.” He was right. Whether I liked it or not, I was leading a team. If you teach your people that alcohol is the way to deal with pressure, they will do it because you are teaching them everything else. The power of being someone’s mentor is real, and so easily, it can be abused, especially when you bring alcohol into the equation. Alcohol blurs those lines, and blurring those lines becomes an abuse of power. There was no blueprint for how to be sober in the industry. At that point, I had become pretty successful, but I had no guidance. What was I supposed to do with wine tastings? What do I say when people ask me to go out after work? There were not many people in the industry who were sober, and if there were, I didn’t know them. In my mind, I was the only one. It felt incredibly isolating. I didn’t tell people the whole truth—just made excuses for why I couldn’t go out. My rehabilitation consisted of regular AA meetings and the 24-hour gym, where I would just destroy myself after work until I could pass out. The folks at AA suggested a career change. But being stubborn and determined, I couldn’t accept that. Why can’t you be in this industry and be sober? Then things started getting better. Not only did I meet my wife, but as a chef, I was going through a rebirth. I started noticing my palate and cooking instincts sharpening. I started identifying and appreciating new flavors, juicing vegetables, and moving away from butter and cream. At the time, I was cooking a lighter version of American food that critics described as brighter and more feminine. In the South, barbecue had a heavy hand. I stood out. Cooking saved my life. There was always a passion, but now, light bulbs were going off. I got almost immediate attention from the press. Then I started to meet other sober people in the industry, including my longtime sponsor Mickey Bakst. I started to do the harder work—taking steps, making amends, and dealing with my trauma. I was changing, but it would be years before I started to believe my industry could change, too.

III. CHANGING T H E C U LT U R E In 2016, I traveled to Florence, South Carolina, to help my friend Steve Palmer open his new restaurant, Town Hall. I was in the process of launching my own restaurant, Crawford and Son, in Raleigh, after having made a reputation for myself in the city through my work at The Umstead and Standard Foods.

March 24, 2021


Scott Crawford


With construction ongoing at my Person Street location, I had a bit of time so I jumped in to help. Steve was sober and so was Ben Murray, who he’d also called in. I‘d known Ben from the Atlanta food and wine festival circuit and always admired how jovial and hardworking he was. He was a positive force, and you couldn’t help but enjoy being around him. Openings are tough, but we were sharing stories about sobriety and the old days, and it was a good time. I remember Ben talking about his daughter. Things seemed good for him. What we didn’t know was that Ben was suffering and, apparently at some point during that opening, had relapsed. We didn’t recognize it. We were busy, and there was a lot of work. I left to return to Raleigh and got a call from Steve. Ben had disappeared. Everyone thought he’d gone home after the opening. Steve had stopped by the hotel and banged on Ben’s door, but no one answered. A few days later, hotel staff heard a gunshot. Ben had taken his own life. Through tears, Steve asked me, “How could this happen? How is this still happening?” Ben had been around sober people, good people who would have supported him. But he still couldn’t deal with the pain and shame of relapsing. There was still little support for people in the industry like us. That needed to change. Steve and Mickey Bakst founded Ben’s Friends, an industry support group for those struggling with addic16

March 24, 2021

tion. I started a chapter in Raleigh, which quickly grew. A year later, I was hosting Ben’s Friends meetings at Crawford and Son, where we’d share our stories, tackling topics like how to handle wine tastings or how to maintain a group of friends, sober. We started to create that blueprint of success that had never existed. One day, it occurred to me that here I was talking with people about how to navigate the industry sober, and yet, I was still rewarding a good shift from my own staff with alcohol. When I started Crawford and Son, I didn’t want to seem anti-alcohol. I was scared to be “that guy” who just eliminated alcohol altogether. If you’re the sober guy in the room, people already start to feel uncomfortable around you. So, I tried to take an approach that would create a healthy culture around alcohol by keeping a close eye on it. We allowed a beer at the end of the night or a glass of wine while cleaning up. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that. But then that light bulb went off. I wanted to be known as someone who creates a professional, safe work environment of learning and growing, not the guy who gives you a beer. In late 2019, we brought in a human resources consultant to help us revise our policies. It was something I’d learned the value of from my time at the Ritz, and real HR training helps people understand clear lines. Going through our handbook, the alcohol policy stood out. We decided to eliminate any and all consumption of alcohol in the workplace by our staff.

There wasn’t a negative reaction. The people who work here are professionals. They are adults, and if they want, they can go grab a drink after work. Just not here. And by doing that, there’s no chance of anyone developing an issue within these walls or grabbing one too many. You’re not giving them the initial buzz that increases the chance they’ll go next door and not be 100 percent the next day. We’re not contributing to that. In the restaurant industry, alcohol is the elephant in the room. It’s been blurring those lines for years, and for some reason, we just keep talking about bad behavior and inappropriate behavior. It’s my belief that if you remove alcohol from the equation, you can eliminate about 90 percent of that behavior. These conversations have been happening in the restaurant industry for years among those of us trying to move the industry forward in a healthier, more sustainable way. The conversation has changed, but at the same time, we’re still hearing these stories that leave a huge black eye on our industry. Peeling away the onion, when you look at these stories—as you hear them, as they are reported—alcohol is involved in all of them. We started the no-alcohol policy right before the pandemic, six months before the reckoning that Raleigh’s restaurant industry witnessed this past summer. There were all these stories coming out. It was heartbreaking. But this didn’t just happen last year. It’s been years of things happening. Some things were downright wrong, terrible, but there were also mistakes where alcohol was involved that I think were completely unintentional. This is an industry-wide issue that isn’t unique to Raleigh, but Raleigh has a very young food scene. It’s still learning and growing. There are a lot of big characters, and the experiences of those characters play into it. I’m not going to name names, and I don’t want to sound self-righteous, but I think those experiences are important because I can tell you some of the things I have seen in this city I knew were going to blow up, just based on my experiences. I’ve seen these dynamics. And believe me, I do not have all the answers. I’m not going to tell you you shouldn’t do this or that. I’m just using my own experiences to insulate my organization with policies, processes, and people who can create a safe environment. What does that environment look like? For us, it’s a place with resources and support systems, good policies that foster good intentions with a vision of coming into work every day so everyone is working toward a common goal and a common vision. My job is to make sure things are physically safe, and my staff knows that they are important to me and that I care about them. So, they can come every day and feel like they are in a safe place, free from harassment. Restaurants are truly magical, amazing places with amazing characters. And we don’t want to lose that magic. It’s intoxicating—people laughing, the excitement, the way someone’s eyes light up as they take a bite, or their heads nod as they listen to a waitress break down the menu. We need to protect it. By protecting our people, we are protecting energy and magic. And I see it every night when I walk out there. I see my staff and the energy that’s created. The magic comes from the people, but the magic can’t exist if the culture is toxic. W

March 24, 2021


FO O D & D R I N K

Takeout, Take Two Food hub Carrboro United is celebrating a year of business. Along the way, it’s reimagined our relationship with restaurants. BY SARAH EDWARDS


oë Dehmer remembers the day that the reality of the shutdown set in. “It was the hardest week of my life,” says Dehmer, director of operations and planning at Acme Food & Beverage Company in Carrboro, recalling March 16. “Our good friend Tom Raynor, the former CEO of Fleet Feet, came into town and said, ‘Guys, we’ve got to do something, we have to come up with a plan to support the town. We can’t assume anyone else is going to do this.’” It’s hard to remember much from the panicky haze of last spring (“And who would want to?” Dehmer jokes dryly), but as a refresher: As soon as the shutdown became reality, restaurants were thrust into crisis as they contended with a farmto-restaurant-to-customer supply chain that had been abruptly severed. Nobody knew what was going to happen next. Raynor and Kevin Callaghan, the chef/ owner of Acme, scrambled to come up with a plan. By March 19, they’d gotten a refrigerated truck on loan from US Foods and launched Carrboro United, an emergency hub of local restaurants that provided contactless drive-through food pickup for customers in the parking lot of Cat’s Cradle—a CSA, but for restaurant cooking. For local restaurants, it was a streamlined way to process orders during a crisis; for customers, a one-stop way to source dishes from beloved local purveyors. The curated thrice-weekly menu listed family meals from different restaurants alongside staples like coffee, eggs, and masks. At first, Dehmer says, people imagined restrictions might last a week or two, or at worst, a month or two. But then March turned into September; then, another March came around. This past Saturday, Carrboro United reached its one-year anniversary. A few 18

March 24, 2021

of the organization’s 20 employees—all paid living wage—set up shop in the University Place Parking lot, where pickups have now moved, and waited for customers to begin rolling in. The staff, wearing masks and tiny orange party hats, were celebrating a few significant statistics, as well, including the $1 million that the hub has put back into the local economy and $45,000 donated to the community organizations that Carrboro United has partnered with. Also: the sale of 5,476 dozen local eggs, over 1,000 pounds of coffee, and 1,322 pounds of local mushrooms. Vendors, now numbering 45, include Glasshalfull, Venable, Lady Edison, and Carrboro Coffee Roasters. Vendors, once small-town competitors, have grown into something of a motley collective. “We thought the best [thing] to do was to involve the whole community,” Dehmer says. “We’re in this storm together, and we have to fight together. This is not a time to claim territory.” Early in the shutdown, Amy McEntee, a Carrboro United regular, was seeking a way to support local businesses while still limiting outside trips. McEntee, a member of several CSAs, was drawn to the ease with which she could integrate Carrboro United into family meals—which, with an 11-yearold son at the table, could go quickly. “There’s been enough variety where I feel like I can pick and choose things that are healthy and things that are going to be delicious,” says McEntee, who places orders two to three times a week. Chapel Hill resident Paul Bilden praises the ways that the hub has boosted small restaurants and appreciates the weekly connectivity that the pickups provide; for his part, he’s come to know the staff by

A Carrboro United employee delivers a meal to a customer name. Meal planning for his family, too, has become easier, and he agrees that the operation will have “legs, even after the pandemic ends.” “It takes two decisions off of our plate during the week,” Bilden says. “For us, it’s incredibly easy to queue it up on Sunday and have Tuesday and Thursday covered.” Dehmer notes that she says has seen this trend in customers, who might order an Acme quiche and pair it with a homemade salad, or order a box of restaurant pastries and make them stretch throughout the week. Takeout can be an ad-hoc Friday night decision; a meal hub becomes routine. Over the past year, restaurants have been forced to reimagine themselves. Chefs alchemized hand sanitizer out of vodka, and restaurant owners concocted a jigsaw puzzle of cocktail kits, specialty grocery items, and heated bubbles. Along the way, Carrboro United has remained a constant for its vendors, growing from an emergency provision to a guiding light for other area food hubs, like the Chatham Food Hub and the ko.mmunity hub in Cary. It’s also become somewhat of a national model: In October, The Wall


Street Journal cited Carrboro United in a trend piece about the future of restaurants. “The response was just so overwhelmingly supportive from the community that as a couple of weeks went on, it was like, ‘Wow, this is a whole business we just created. What have we done?’” Dehmer says. “We started to firm up an idea of how it could be more than just an emergency response—how it could be a response to a need that maybe wasn’t being met before.” Restaurants have faced existential reckonings several times over, this year, and may never return as we knew them—too much has shifted, both for restaurant owners and diners. But, as Dehmer points out, “The need for eating isn’t going anywhere.” “I think that this conversation is playing out across the country: How do we change our perception of how a restaurant functions in a community?” Dehmer says. “What opportunity would both serve restaurants and their customers? I think that both the customers and businesses are seeking more stability in the relationship they have with each other. After this year, that has become more apparent.” W

A RT Caitlin Cary and Eric “Skillet” Gilmore PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

Shop on the Corner It may be pocket-sized, but Caitlin Cary and Skillet Gilmore have big plans for their new neighborhood gallery BY EMMA KENFIELD


t the edge of Historic Oakwood in Raleigh, on the corner of East Lane and North Bloodworth streets, two cherry-red doors with square windows conceal a small white room. Through the glass, towering walls lined with canvases and antique cases of ceramics are visible. Tucked away in the back, shop owner Caitlin Cary is likely hunkered over her sewing machine. Cary and her husband, Eric “Skillet” Gilmore, have lived in Raleigh for over 25 years; on March 5, the couple opened Pocket Gallery at 222 North Bloodworth Street. Open Wednesday through Sunday, from noon to 6 p.m., the 350-square-foot storefront features local art in all forms, from Gilmore’s screen prints, to Cary’s needlepoint canvases, to jewelry, crochet, and greeting cards made by local artists and friends. Pocket Gallery also features a monthly rotating guest wall, located at the front of the store. Currently, the work of art-

ist Davis Choun occupies the wall, his large clothespin-assemblages challenging three-dimensional space. Cary says they are already fully booked with guest artists until 2022, with Autumn Cobeland set to take Choun’s place in April. Future guest artists include Pete Sack, Adam Cohen, and Luke Buchanan. “I thought, well, if I lived in a neighborhood that could have a store, I would love to have a little place to go and get a card for a friend or a gift,” Cary says. “And then accidentally spend $2,000 on a great piece of original art!” Cary and Gilmore have always been artists—although first, they drew people in with their sound. In the mid and late 1990s, the two performed on stages across Raleigh in alt-country act Whiskeytown, alongside Ryan Adams, before Adams branched out as a solo act. Cary, a vocalist and violinist, went on to release three solo albums, a duet album with singer-songwriter Thad

Cockrell, and two albums with girl-powergroup Tres Chicas. Around six years ago, Cary decided her time in music was done, and turned to visual art to fuel her fire. As a visual artist, she has a style that’s eclectic but organized, spontaneous but intentional. She coined the term “needleprint,” because her personal technique—sewing reclaimed fabric scraps onto canvas or paper—doesn’t quite have a name. With these canvases, she creates deconstructed versions of noted landmarks, street corners, or clients’ childhood homes. Gilmore also pivoted to art, learning graphic design and creating posters for local music and city events (at one point, he also worked for the INDY’s art department as production manager). His zany, colorful screen prints are attention-grabbing— it’s impossible, for instance, to ignore two comic-book-style middle fingers pasted on the wall. Prior to the pandemic, Cary had studio space in the Raleigh collective Artspace for five years. With the shutdown in effect, working from home proved a hangup for creativity, she and Gilmore finally decided to open the gallery. “It was just something about the way it felt when we walked in,” she says. “It really is tiny; ‘The Pocket’ is the right name. But there’s a lot of wall space, which made me think, okay, maybe I can wrap my brain around the size of the space, and I’ll really be able to get quite a bit of work in here.” When she pictures what a COVID-free future looks like, Cary imagines extending displays onto the sidewalk, Friday wine-andcheese nights for guest artist openings, and even small poetry readings indoors. And while current circumstances limit how many people can frequent Pocket Gallery at once, Cary feels confident in its potential and future, and has begun booking a couple years out. Business may not be booming yet, but people are gradually beginning to discover, and appreciate, the neighborhood space. “It’s a groovy block with a restaurant right next door, right across the street,” Cary says. “There’s people walking their dogs and picking up their kids. I feel like we’re grabbing attention slowly. People are noticing.” W

March 24, 2021



This Lease Will Self-Destruct VAE Raleigh and TheGifted Arts use short-term rentals to test a new vision for the arts nonprofit ecosystem BY BRIAN HOWE


ll arts organizations will be emerging into a new world as COVID subsides, but this is especially true of VAE Raleigh. Since leaving its home at 309 West Martin Street last summer, the nonprofit art gallery has signed two new leases. One is for a row of four storefronts at 120 South Wilmington Street, which VAE started using as street-view galleries at the beginning of March. The other lease, shared with youth-arts nonprofit TheGifted Arts, is for a large space in the Creamery building at 410 Glenwood Avenue, Suite 170. This will be VAE’s new flagship when it reopens in May with De Aqui Y De Alla, a group exhibit about Latinx duality. TheGifted Arts, which Nicholé and CJ Morgan founded in Garner a decade ago, is operating in Raleigh now. Both leases are relatively short-term. The storefronts are set to be demolished within a year, with two weeks’ notice, making way for a 32-story tower. The Creamery lease has a shelf life of 16 to 24 months. But for once, that’s a feature, not a bug. In conversations among the leaders of VAE, TheGifted Arts, and several other prospective partners (such as the LGBT Center of Raleigh), an idea had taken shape for a community arts hub where lean-margined nonprofits could consolidate resources, eliminate redundant expenses, and forge a sustainable path through the high-priced development squeezing Raleigh’s downtown core. Low-cost, low-stakes, last-days leases, it turned out, made perfect prototypes. Brandon Cordrey, VAE’s executive director, presided over most of its nine years in the Warehouse District. Frustrated by the untapped potential of being a small outfit in a big building, he often loaned VAE space to nonprofits like Arts Access for board meetings and other functions. “We have these galleries that sit empty, and we pay to keep them conditioned for the safety of the artwork, but we’re not using the space a lot of the time, and it’s our second-biggest expense after staff,” Cordrey says. 20

March 24, 2021

CJ Morgan, co-founder of TheGifted Arts, and VAE executive director Brandon Cordrey

“We realized that if we could operate out of one physical space, we could redirect those funds toward our actual community-service missions.” Counterintuitively, for all the ventures the pandemic has ruined, it galvanized this one. All of that rent pouring into empty rooms threw the issue into stark relief, and two of the potential partners, VAE and TheGifted Arts, were clear of their leases. “It was the only time this was going to work, because otherwise, we have leases ranging from six months to eight years, with no real opportunity to get the concentration of funding we’d need for a location big enough for us,” Cordrey says. Also counterintuitively, inasmuch as urban development drives nonprofits’ woes, artist-friendly property owners and brokers helped make this experiment possible. VAE first used the storefront spaces a few months ago, for ILLUMINATE, a light-art project created at the behest of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. This lit the way for Kane Realty to let them lease the empty storefronts until they were torn down. VAE had long been lucky to have creative, civic-minded landlords in Thomas Sayre and the late Steve Schuster, who “gave VAE its first home on Hargett and then supported it through the Martin Street era,” according to Cordrey. “An architect and an artist who were early investors in downtown when everyone told them it was ludicrous,” he marvels. “They understood the landscape of the city and nonprofits, and they didn’t have a corporate outlook.” That beneficent torch was picked up by Jamie Dawson, the vice chair of the City of Raleigh Arts Commission and the head of the real estate agency The Dawson Group.


“Jamie has been an advocate for VAE and TheGifted Arts in the past,” Cordrey says. “He thought piloting the community-hub idea before going big was a good idea, and he set his team to helping us find it pro bono.” The Creamery space mainly consists of three large bays, one broken into offices, one serving as VAE’s main gallery, and one as TheGifted Arts’ larger of two dance studios. The smaller one will also be used for video art by VAE, illustrating the creative possibilities beyond the economic necessities of the permeable arrangement. “We can move in, work out the kinks, and at the end of two years either walk away having tried it, or have data that it works that we can show developers,” Cordrey says. “Being willing to be the last tenant here, we got a lot more flexibility [and] a price we could experiment within.” Another experimental aspect is that, while the two organizations are sharing the space equally, VAE is taking on more of the cost, in acknowledgement of the historic over-resourcing of white-led nonprofits at the expense of Black-led ones like TheGifted Arts, which serves predominantly Black and Latin American arts students through afterschool and weekend classes. “VAE gets to stay relatively in the downtown core, while TheGifted Arts can become a funding partner of the city, where there are more municipal resources than there are in Garner,” says Cordrey, who hopes developers will take notice as other nonprofits escape their leases and join the coalition. “If we’re going to take advantage of how the city is changing and growing, we can’t just shake our fists in the air. Those four storefronts were going to sit vacant until the wrecking ball went through Alexander Square. Now, they don’t have to.” W




Theatrical release Friday, Mar. 26


Nobody’s Home Bob Odenkirk goes full beast mode as a middle-aged, ass-kicking action hero BY LEIGH TAUSS


his sure ain’t Saul. In Nobody, Bob Odenkirk, best known from Breaking Bad and as the star of its spin-off, Better Call Saul, transforms from his typical quirky typecasting into an ass-kicking action hero in a sharply edited thriller that manages to squeeze in some unlikely laughs. It’s about as wholesome as a movie in which the protagonist dumps boiling water down a hitman’s face can be, and makes for a bloody fun—albeit, slightly hollow—hourand-a-half ride. Nobody is Russian music video savant Ilya Viktorovich Naishuller’s second major directorial venture. It’s written by Derek Kolstad who helped create the John Wick franchise, which means there’s obviously a Russian mob villain, but what you might not expect is that this baddie also loves singing karaoke in neon-drenched clubs. Our hero is Hutch, played by Odenkirk, a middle-aged suburban dad whose biggest gripe is barely missing the garbage truck every Tuesday. One night, two inexperienced burglars break into Hutch’s home and, dissatisfied with his spare change (he uses a debit card!), steal his watch. Hutch’s son is able to tackle one of the burglars to the ground, giving Hutch a perfect opportunity to step in and beat the other burglar with a golf club. Instead, he abstains, prompting emasculating shaming from his son, the cop that

responds to his break-in, and even a random guy at work. Something becomes unhinged in Hutch, and his cold dead glare hints at a violent past. As the film progresses, we learn Hutch isn’t what he seems and has been bottling up a secret—he’s a highly trained killer craving an excuse to explode. And he’s no reluctant warrior, either—an artistic flair in his ruthlessness reveals that Hutch loves the violence. He misses it. Suddenly, Hutch goes from bumbling with the morning coffee pot to punching the teeth out of menacing drunks on a public bus for kicks, drawing the ire from the aforementioned Russian mob boss. It only gets wilder from there. I don’t usually go for the gore, but thanks to smart editing and a dash of humor, the copious amounts of fake blood and bruises didn’t phase me. Naisshuller deserves credit for elevating this from what could have been a generic bloodfest to a more nuanced and creative noir. While its fiery finale is sure to dazzle— get ready for a sharp-shooting 82-year-old Christopher Lloyd—I couldn’t help but want a little more out of old Hutch by the end. A lean runtime spares the punches from getting old, but surely, something other than bloodlust must be churning through dear Hutch’s veins? Still, kudos to Odenkirk for going full beast mode. He’s nobody you want to mess with. W

One m o r e i t y! tun oppor . 14! AP R


Contact your ad rep or to reserve your spot today!

March 24, 2021




If you just can’t wait, check out the current week’s answer key at, and click “puzzle pages” at the bottom of our webpage.

Delivery in Durham & Chapel Hill Mail Order | Curbside Pick Up

Hours for pick up: Monday–Saturday 12–4PM

su | do | ku

this week’s puzzle level:

© Puzzles by Pappocom

There is really only one rule to Sudoku: Fill in the game board so that the numbers 1 through 9 occur exactly once in each row, column, and 3x3 box. The numbers can appear in any order and diagonals are not considered. Your initial game board will consist of several numbers that are already placed. Those numbers cannot be changed. Your goal is to fill in the empty squares following the simple rule above.

If you just can’t wait, check out the current week’s answer key at, and click “puzzle pages.” Best of luck, and have fun! solution to last week’s puzzle


March 24, 2021



ur webpage.







INDY Week Press Club Help keep local journalism free and and accessible.


March 24, 2021


IT’S BACK! the most recognized award throughout the Triangle



Best of the Triangle Reader's Poll

Nominate your favorite bar, veterinarian, bookshop, hiking trail—whatever it may be, there are over 300 categories in which you can profess your favorite Triangle treasures Nominations begin Friday, March 26th For promotional opportunities, please contact