Larkin Duran, the owner of Lupie’s Cafe, the beloved Charlotte spot known for chili and down-home cooking, is rushing to reopen Wednesday after a car tore through the foyer on the front of the small restaurant last weekend.
Duran said the restaurant was open and a table of customers was near the spot in the front when a car apparently slid off the road in the rain, smashed through the front foyer, destroying it, and overturned in the parking lot.
“We didn’t know what was going on at first,” she said. “It sounded like a bomb had gone off.”
No details on the cause of the accident or the condition of the driver were available Tuesday from the police department.
Lupie’s, located near a curve on Monroe Road, has been hit by cars twice before. The last time, in 2015, a driver smashed into the restaurant about 2:15 a.m. and fled, causing damage bad enough to keep the restaurant closed for several weeks. The driver was later found and charged. In 1999, a driver lost control and hit the restaurant. That driver was charged with DWI.
After the accident in 2015, the Durans added a large rock out front. Larkin Duran, who took over the restaurant after the retirement of her mother, founder Lupie Duran, said she thinks the rock slowed the car down, possibly keeping the vehicle from coming farther into the building.
Friends of the restaurant quickly started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money to help the restaurant staff, who have missed several days of work — and tips. It had raised $1,280 by Tuesday afternoon. Duran hopes to reopen Wednesday, but says she’ll post updates on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Larkin Duran said employees and even a Postmates delivery driver quickly jumped in to start cleaning up the damage.
“After the last time, we’re kind of professionals at this,” Duran said. “It was insane.”
Duran said she’s considering putting some kind of small structure in front and filling it with concrete to protect customers. She also says she plans to approach the city about putting a flashing light at the curve to try to get drivers to slow down.
“The limit is 35 (miles per hour). But people easily go 50 down Monroe.”