This is the story of two friends who love beer and another friend who loves to cook. Well, he loves beer too.
Chris and Woody met as servers at Bogart’s American Grill. They became friends over several great beers, sometimes even making interstate trips in search of new things to try. Over many late nights at Havana Deluxe, Chris and Woody discussed a shared dream of opening their own place.
Out of those conversations came the idea for a restaurant concept focused on good beer and local organic food. The space at 225 South Wilmington Street brought them the opportunity to realize their concept, and the Busy Bee Cafe was (re)born.
The Busy Bee originally opened in 1913, serving breakfast and lunch to Raleigh’s downtown crowd. The café had a varied menu, including fish, oyster and steak. There was also a private dining room for women, hence the “Ladies Invited” signage on the original storefront (see picture). After the café closed in 1925, the space was occupied by a number of businesses, including an auto parts store (Advance), a hardware store (Carolina Hardware), a furniture and appliance store, and most recently a hip-hop fashion outfitter (Capital Clothing). It was also rumored to have been a strip club in the late 1960s. The building was condemned after the entire storefront fell into Wilmington Street in the late 90s, you can still see where the original brick of the wall and the newer brick of the storefront meet. After purchase in the summer of 2008, the building underwent an extensive renovation, reopening as Busy Bee Café and The Hive on April 6, 2009.
And yes, ladies are still invited.