A founding member of Charleston's fine-dining establishment is in its final days after 27 years, a sign of the uptown shift taking place within the city's thriving and competitive restaurant industry.
Carolina's, which opened in 1987, will close its doors March 22, said Joe Meloy, who has owned the storied restaurant at 10 Exchange St. since 2010.
Meloy is leasing the historic building, which is owned by an Isle of Palms-based company. A new business proposed to buy the property and potentially the dining business, but the deal recently fell through, he said.
Meloy said he decided not to sign another lease because he "didn't want to make a long-term commitment at this time."
"We're ready to wrap up business because of the way things are progressing here in Charleston," he said. "Things have moved to Upper King."
The pink building with wrought-iron fences tucked away near East Bay and Broad streets has a long history in Charleston's food-and-beverage industry. Before Carolina's, it housed Perdita's, a French fine-dining restaurant that was established in 1953.
Carolina's was pioneered by Chris Weihs and Franz Meier, a pair of entrepreneurial European restaurateurs who helped introduce innovative cuisine to an otherwise conventional downtown dining scene. The business has changed hands at three times since their ownership.
Donald Barickman, a co-founder of the well-known Magnolias who is now a chef instructor with the Culinary Institute of Charleston, was the first chef at Carolina's when he was 25 years old.
"I really think that Carolina's was a game-changer, and it gave me some insight on the way I approached things when I helped open Magnolias," Barickman said.
While the building at 10 Exchange could attract yet another fine-dining establishment, the closing of Carolina's shows that the epicenter of the peninsula's culinary landscape has shifted north, to the bustling Upper King Street district.
"Restaurants have a certain life span ... not to mention just the movement of fine dining to Upper King Street. It's pushed everybody in the opposite direction a little bit," Barickman said.
The owners of the Carolina's property put the 6,230-square-foot building up for sale last week for $2.37 million. It's also available for lease at an annual rate of $22 per square foot, according to the real estate listing.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail