Eastern NC businesses clean up after Florence

Owner of popular Morehead City brew pub recounts how storm “tore roof off” his business

Susan Sanders cleans her store, Harbor Specialties, after Hurricane Florence hit Beaufort N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)

RALEIGH — With two more deaths announced by Gov. Cooper on Monday, the North Carolina death toll from Hurricane Florence has reached 35. Roads remain flooded and closed across portions of eastern North Carolina, but the major thoroughfares, most notably, I-40 and I-95, have now reopened.

For residents of the region, data on deaths and flooding don’t begin to fully tell the story. Many businesses were especially hard hit and will be dealing with the after-effects of Florence for the foreseeable future. Russell Lewis, owner of Tight Lines Pub and Brewing Company in Morehead City and Queen Anne’s Revenge in Beaufort, told the North State Journal how the storm devastated one of his businesses.

Lewis, a Beaufort native, first opened Queen Anne’s Revenge, a popular pizza restaurant on the docks in Beaufort, after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill and returning home to the Crystal Coast. The restaurant was a success so they then decided to open a brew pub in neighboring Morehead City.

The family chose a historic building in the heart of the popular downtown and got to work renovating it. Russell’s grandfather was the general contractor for the project, his dad did the electric work and he did a lot of the labor himself. After opening, Tight Lines was embraced by the community and by the throngs of tourists who pass through Morehead City every day.

“Tight Lines is the only brew pub in the county, because it has a functioning restaurant in addition to the brewery,” Lewis told the NSJ. “We were selling more than we could brew though, and were planning on starting to distribute this fall.”

Hurricane Florence then made landfall though and the Lewises’ plans ground to a halt. During the storm, Lewis and his father jumped in the truck and went to check on Tight Lines. They expected everything would be mostly alright, maybe with some minor exceptions.

“When we got there, we saw that the roof had been blown entirely off,” Lewis said. “We went inside and it was like walking into an indoor storm. It was literally raining inside. I was in complete awe. It was a moment I’ll never forget.”

Lewis rode out the storm with “five friends, three dogs and a guinea pig.” He said he has ridden out every storm since the 1980s, but this one was very different.

“We were feeling the effects for four straight days. The power and intensity of the wind alone was amazing.”

It wasn’t just the business that was in danger. Lewis said as he slept, “a massive oak tree landed just feet from the window by my bed. It could have crushed the house, but it just barely missed us.”

As for the future of Tight Lines, Lewis says they will be closed for “several months.” He has met with the insurance adjustor, who he said was helpful, but it is yet to be determined what kind of financial assistance they will be given, and when. Queen Anne’s Revenge in Beaufort was completely spared and is already back open serving pizza and beer.

“We’re staying positive,” said Lewis on how they’re doing post storm. “We’ve got some great friends. We’ll rebuild and be back better than ever.”