Bad Outdoor Seating or Bad Location?

Wilmoore Cafe's outdoor seating.

Now that we’re into the spring season, outdoor seating during the warmer hours is in high demand. Downtown Raleigh actually has a plentiful amount of outdoor seating options with some doing it better than others. That’s for another post but here I wanted to highlight an interesting seating situation.

Take a look at the photo above. (click for larger) It shows the outdoor seating balcony of the Wilmoore Cafe located on Wilmington Street. The seating is slightly overlooking the walkway that connects the Moore Square bus station to Wilmington Street in the middle of the block. From what I hear and the times I’ve been by, very little, if any, people are actually using this outdoor seating.

So I’ll back up and admit that when the Wilmoore Cafe first opened, I thought that this balcony here would be great outdoor seating. I still do and in fact, there is a lot of potential for all that space behind the buildings of Wilmington Street and under the Moore Square parking deck. So when I heard that a lot of people don’t end up sitting out here I started to wonder.

The photo I have posted here is not during work hours so bear with me.

The balcony at first glance seems to have everything that a great outdoor seating space should have. It’s small and cozy. There’s a bit of separation between yourself and the walkway but not too much that you feel detached. The tree cover adds a hint of nature to the setting. The area is also not empty during work hours as people walk through here all the time so there’s plenty of people watching opportunities. People attract more people to any public space.

There’s something about this part of the station that I really enjoy. I walk through it all the time. The more complex nature of steps and walkways that are completely away from the street makes it feel urban. It’s a very different place within our city. So could this be a part of the reason that this great balcony for morning coffee drinkers isn’t working?

Outdoor seating within the core of downtown is dominated by sidewalk seating. The Raleigh Times, Capital Club 16, The Big Easy, Vic’s, Tir Na Nog, and many more restaurants just place the tables and chairs on the sidewalks and people flock. What is it about the sidewalk that works so well?

To me, I think sitting on the sidewalk puts you right in the middle of the traffic, the sidewalk traffic that is. The people watching when sitting on the sidewalk is so much more enjoyable than being inside. I also think that we’re all just in love with what is going on up and down the streets. The vehicle traffic provides that background noise that makes things more comfortable. Ever been to a party with the music turned off?

So back to the Wilmoore Cafe balcony and the photo at the beginning of this post. Could people not be sitting here because it’s simply not the sidewalk? Maybe it’s too far from the street? Or perhaps nobody knows about it?

The area has some flaws however and they are shown in the photo. You can see several cars parked right underneath the parking deck and pedestrians have to weave through them. There used to be a fountain here. Does anyone know what happened to it, why it was removed? The lighting is also that ugly amber that makes you feel like you are under a highway. I think it’s these little things that could make a big difference if re-thought.

Like I said, I think there is a lot of potential for a great public space inside this block that has the Moore Square bus station. However, it needs a people friendly touch so that visitors stop and visit rather than pass through. Some of these things, I hope to see as part of the Moore Square bus station upgrade that is upcoming in the next few years. That may create more cozy balconies and alcoves for us humans to stop and relax in.

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  1. Let me say first of all that i LOVE wilmoore. i live and work downtown and frequent the place often… that being said however, I have sat on the patio *once*. I was harassed for change/cigarettes at least 4 times in a 45 minute period. also there was a lot of shouting and drama from the bus station folk. not to mention the diesel fumes from the buses! I won’t ever do it again.

    BUT! the front tables are lovely (in the store front and outside) and this mess out back in no way alters my opinion of the establishment (see above; i LOVE it! best pimento cheese ever! Cheerwine in the soda fountain!) It is a shame to see such an unusable space, but …meh… what can you do? Just glad to see someone else pointed it out, too.

  2. (just wanted to add the one time i sat on the patio last summer was for lunch at around 1pm-2pm)

  3. Wilmoore closes at 5:00pm on weekdays, so that may be contributing to the impression that nobody uses it. I do think many who frequent the coffee shop forget it’s back there.

    The fountain was removed to make room for more seating and walking areas, but the real reason was environmental. Having a fountain running during periods of drought was a bad image, so it would be turned off. Then when the drought passed it was costing the City too much to keep it cleaned.

  4. I think I ate there twice before I even realized that they had that patio. When you go to Wilmoore, the first noticeable seating is the chairs and tables in the old storefront window. Which to me, is the most interesting aspect of that cafe, and they are fun to sit in there.
    Sidewalk seating is more popular downtown than patios, but there are a few notable ones that have a good following. Like Humble Pie for one. Remedy has one too that I liked.
    Then you have places like Buku, Porters, and now Sushi Blues where it’s a combo…patio seating that’s on the sidewalk. Best of both worlds.

  5. I have not seen it in person but based on the picture alone, it appears stark and not too inviting.

    The Busy Bee deserves a mention for nice rooftop seating. My wife and I love that spot.

  6. Great News: They are leveling that UGLY building on Glenwood South and building a brand new stand alone Carolina Ale House!

    Anybody heard what is going on with the hotel across the street from 42nd Street Oyster Bar. That is a good looking design, as long as you like looking at a picture of it on the lot for the next 5 years (another pathetic developer along with Empire)

    Also, speaking of Empire, tell them to sell the lot they own next to the circular hotel, that lot is an eyesore, tried of seeing it empty (but that’s what happens when Empire get’s involved, they do nothing for years (they are a joke)

  7. Are they actually doing something with Ale House now? That building was supposed to be demolished a year ago at least. I haven’t been by it in a few weeks, though I did notice the Hampton Inn is coming along nicely.

    Also, as far as the bus station, that thing needs to be moved out of downtown, or at least to SE Raleigh. It brings down the whole area around it. I’m so sick of being hassled by hobos for money or just listening to them mumble about stuff. I’m sorry you’re nuts and your life sucks. Not my problem, and certainly not something I have a solution to. I’d like to start seeing mandatory 1-year sentences for panhandling. Then they’d have somewhere to go during the day…

  8. Jeff, agree!!! We are all nuts or sick in some form, life is tough. But these people are just frickin lazy. I am tired of seeing them lounge around when we go downtown, move out of downtown, clean yourself up, go look for a job (anything). Hobos is being nice, Raleigh city council again needs to lay down the law (but our city council team has no guts). If your panhandling, a minimum 1-2 years in prison (plus highway cleaning duty everyday, that may wake their lazy you know what’s up)

  9. I think there was once a proposal for putting a new bus station (City bus combined with TTA and Greyhound all in one) somewhere on the edge of downtown. Maybe South Wilmington or Hammond near the dogfood plant? Guessing that just fell off the list when the economy went south.

  10. There is more to it than moving the bus station. And more to than moving the people you don’t like, understand, or care to for that matter to places in the city you don’t go. And put them in jail on increases the likely hood of continuing not to be a productive part of society.

  11. Hey, we understand! These people a productive part of society? Are you kidding, what are they waiting for (I will tell you, another hand out).
    By the way, I have seen places around the world that some people would not want to walk through, let alone live. There are no REAL bad sections of Raleigh (if you think so, you have NO clue of the definition of Bad or terrifying).

    I have given these people money throughout the years, huge mistake on my part. I have tried to help people LIKE THEM, to help them get off their a_ _ and do something constructive. You know what, alot of hard working people are tired of hearing the politically correct BS of kids/younger people today. Alot of kids/younger people today are lazy and blame everyone else but themselves. This country is getting soft when I hear BS like the above. They do not belong in any downtown or standing on any street intersection with a sign, get motivated and do SOMETHING productive.

  12. Carolina Ale House Site Plan was reportedly approved this week. is reporting this.

    Demolition permits are typically next.

  13. i’m a young liberal who loves walking around downtown and feels genuinely bad for the homeless people, but it’s not helping them and it’s hurting our city. plain and simple.

  14. As was mentioned before, a huge issue with this spot is the bus drama. I ate out there twice last summer but won’t be doing it again. There is a constant stream of people asking for money or smokes and a bunch that seem to spend the day hanging out on the benches yelling when they see someone they know pass by. There is a difference between urban / city background which is cool and annoying behavior.

  15. I feel for a lot of the homeless folks, but you can’t walk near the bus shed without being harassed. They constantly urinate on every parking garage stairwell and sleep in Moore Square. Something has to be done.

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