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During the 2014 U.S. Open, according to colloquial accounts, business for Moore County restaurants was hit or miss. Some were in the weeds, while others prepared for a rush that never happened — tourists didn’t venture far from Pinehurst Resort and locals, scared of traffic, didn’t either. Ten years later, things are different. The amount of short-term rentals outside of Pinehurst has increased. Tourists can more easily pull up Instagram or Pinterest to find local places to explore. At the same time, the county has grown and grown younger, just like the game of golf.

Restaurant owners are expecting a busy week, but most say it won’t be anything they haven’t gotten used to during the past few years of Moore County’s intense population growth.

“The difference between the 2014 Open and now is that back then, we were used to 100 people nights,” says Danielle Williams, manager of Elliotts on Linden. “Now we’re regularly doing 150 person-plus nights. Our staff is equipped to handle it.” The Pinehurst restaurant is nearly completely booked, with the exception of some openings on Monday, June 10 and Tuesday, June 11, after the U.S. Open practice rounds.

Ashley Van Camp, owner of Ashten’s Restaurant, is expecting a full house Wednesday, June 12 through Saturday, June 15. “It’s like having a really busy holiday for about four nights in a row,” she says.

Ashten’s has some corporate reservations on the books, but Ashley is hoping to see some local folks, too — “I don’t want a regular to not be able to get a table. The U.S. Open is great, it’s like the icing on the cake, but the locals are our bread and butter.”

Nearby, Chef Warrens will be closed as it normally is during that week for chef Warren Lewis’s birthday. Co-owner Marianne Lewis says they’ve turned down reservations that would have filled the restaurant.

“We’ve done three Opens already and that’s enough,” Marianne says. “The people who live here are always terrified it’s going to be packed, and the people going to the Open don’t wander the towns. In Southern Pines, it becomes quiet.”

Kitty Hopkins, owner of Chapman’s Food & Spirits, is hoping tourists will venture into Southern Pines, where shops will be open later to accommodate those visiting after rounds. Hatchet Brewing Co. is hosting a slate of events, plus a “Funk the Open” parking lot dance party by music event company Locals Only on Saturday, June 15.

Betsey Moyer says Betsey’s Crepes, which does not accept reservations, was slammed during the 2014 U.S. Open. This year, she’ll keep regular hours — no special accommodations. The Wine Cellar will have double the amount of bartenders just in case. Southern Pines Growler Co. owners Brandi Underwood and Gerry Bateman are among those who aren’t sure what to expect, but are preparing for crowds.

“There’s really been a much broader amount of opportunities for people,” Gerry says. “A lot of new things have opened up. I think the general population has a lot more options whether its Red’s or Rec Room, or various things going on. There’s just all kinds of new things for people to do. But there’s also been an increase in the number of people here. … We are hopeful the Open will give businesses a chance to do more business and get our name out there.”

Blocks from the championship, the village of Pinehurst is converting Tufts Park to what it calls the “U.S. Open Showcase,” with free community events, live streams of the championship on a big screen, golf simulators, beer, food trucks and more. The village is creating a temporary social district during the week of the Open, meaning patrons can stroll while sipping alcoholic beverages from bars and restaurants.

Maxie Gleaton is expecting “an absolute madhouse” at Maxie’s Grill & Tap Room. He’ll be adding a tent outside and adding more live music to the schedule.

“Last time was an absolute zoo. This one seems to have a  different vibe to it. It’s hard to explain. The USGA is putting their headquarters here now. They’ve moved the Hall of Fame. Just the geographical growth in itself. I moved here in 1987 and this place is completely different now. … It’s all grown up.” 

The Pine Crest Inn has also developed a reputation as the place to party during golf championships. Like in 2014, they will host a block party. Dogwood Road will be closed, bands will play live music in the street, and food and drink will be served inside the restaurant as well as under an outdoor tent. “We were busy last U.S. Open, but I sense that it will be more busy than last time,” says general manager Drew Gross. “They’ve done better planning this year and have better marketing. It’s hard to predict.”

Drum & Quill is calling themselves the “unofficial U.S. Open HQ.” Owner Kevin Drum is adding on-street seating and an outdoor bar, plus live music and U.S. Open coverage on six TVs. On Friday and Saturday, the bar will be open until 2 a.m.

At Agora Bakery and Cafe, locals and tourists can sip beer, wine, Prosecco, cocktails and mocktails or take them to go. Normally closed on Sundays, Lisi Italian will be open on both Sunday, June 9 and Sunday, June 16, and their bar, Augie’s, will be open and serving as well.

This size of this year’s crowd may be hard to anticipate, but how it ends up will set the tone for Opens to come.

“Once it starts, we just gotta embrace it,” Maxie says. “I know we’re prepared for it. They’re used to being busy — we’re always busy. But I told them to just know once it gets busy it’s not gonna stop until it’s over. It’s going to be a lot of work.”

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