Downtown Chapel Hill

Downtown Blog

Guest Blog: A Fresh Look at Chapel Hill Classics

Guest Blogger: Eliot O. was born in Duke Hospital in 1993 and moved to Chapel Hill shortly after. To clear up any potential discrepancies, this actually makes him a Duke fan. We’ll forgive him this time! 

I spent my childhood running around the streets of Southern Village and taking the ‘NS’ bus route from my neighborhood to Franklin Street. Armed with my Velcro wallet in the side pocket of my cargo shorts, I would peruse the streets of Chapel Hill, being sure to always grab the newest set of Pokèmon cards from the underground Cerebral Hobbies. Once the sun began to fall behind the rooftops of the timeless Chapel Hill skyline, I knew it was time to hop back on the bus and head home. 

Little did I know at the time, a setting sun did not just mean the end of the day – it meant the start of a thriving, after-dark Chapel Hill nightlife.

I am currently a junior at Penn State University and as of last October, I am able to legally enjoy an alcoholic beverage. I am finally able to explore the other half of Chapel Hill that I had previously been blind to. With a side-ways North Carolina driver’s license indicating my legality to purchase and consume alcohol in my wallet, it feels as if I have the golden ticket to the Chocolate Factory that is Chapel Hill’s bar scene.

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After exploring the many different bars, pubs, and restaurants, here is a quick road map of my favorite three bars on Franklin Street. 

To make it even easier, all three of these bars are within a five-minute walk from another. So during your next night on the town in Chapel Hill, there’s no reason not to stop in for a home-brewed beer at TOPO, a pint of Guinness at Fitzgerald’s, or if you happen to be out on a Tuesday, a one-dollar tequila shot at The Library.


Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub, 206 West Franklin Street,

As soon as I entered Fitzgerald’s I felt that distinctive atmosphere of a traditional Irish pub. The dark hardwood floors, warm lighting, and smell of beer drew me in immediately. There was a long bar along the wall to the left when I walked in. It took me a second to notice the other full bar way at the back of an open dance floor. The staff was sociable and swift; exactly what you’d want from a bartender. This is the perfect place to enjoy some pints with friends and watch sports on the dozens of TVs. Or, if you’re feeling especially jovial, you could hit the dance floor and jam out to some classic tunes. The answers below were provided by sales manager Lauren Shoaf.

How did your establishment start?
The original Fitzgerald's, which opened in 2012, is located in uptown Charlotte. Fitzgerald's Chapel Hill is the second location and is locally owned. 

What unique service(s) does your establishment provide for Chapel Hill nightlife? 
We provide a unique late night atmosphere in the sense that you can come here to dance and listen to the DJ in the back bar area, or sit up front and have a conversation with friends. There is a great atmosphere and energy in here that you can't find at a lot of places. We pride ourselves on keeping the bar clean and safe and offering drink specials that college students and locals can both enjoy. Something we have that no one else does is 30 TVs playing music videos during late night, it just adds another element for people that want to dance.

 What drink specials/events (karaoke, etc.) does your establishment offer? 
We have drink specials 7 days a week. We also have trivia on Mondays, $5 burgers on Tuesdays, live music on Wednesdays, and various specials and promotions for sporting events.

Sum up your establishment in one or two sentences.
Lively and festive any time of the day, Fitzgerald's perfect place to gather with friends or to meet new people. Come in for game day, dinner or late night and enjoy one of the mouth-watering items on our menu and our extensive selection of beer, liquor and cocktails.


The Library , 120 East Franklin Street,

 With a name like The Library, you might picture a more laid-back bar – somewhere to grab some casual drinks with buddies before a night out. Think again. This place is a mixture of booming DJs, beaming strobe lights, and a boisterous dance floor just calling your name. However, if you need to catch a breather, the back of the bar offers a quieter area with games of beer pong and seating. The Library is perfect for anyone desiring an electrifying night full of dancing, beer games, and stimulating DJs. The answers below were provided by owner Kyle Heath.

 How did your establishment start?
The Library opened on January 1st, 2001. It was bought out by a different partner in May of 2005, just days before a Tar Heel national championship!

What unique service(s) does your establishment provide for Chapel Hill nightlife? 
We provide great DJs 4-5 nights a week and always have two beer pong tables in the back. Also, there’s never a cover charge at the door with a valid UNC ID!

What drink specials/events (karaoke, etc.) does your establishment offer? 
Our most popular college night is known as “Tequila Tuesday.” Every Tuesday, we feature $1 tequila shots. Sundays at the Library are known as “COLOURS” and is an LGBT night. It has grown to have a great following.

Sum up your establishment in one or two sentences.
We like to pride ourselves in being an unpretentious bar that serves quality drinks at a great price.  We have been here longer then most bars on Franklin and like to think we are a solid part of the Chapel Hill community.


Top of the Hill ,  100 East Franklin Street,

Top of the Hill was the one bar and restaurant that I had actually been to before turning 21 - but seeing as it’s a brewery that serves exclusive Carolinian craft beers – I don’t think I got the full experience when all I ordered was an order of chicken wings and a Coke. My second time at TOPO was a bit different. For one, it was late at night. The open layout was swarming with students and families enjoying the several impressive microbrews. Standing at the circular bar in the middle of the restaurant, I enjoyed a “Ram’s Head IPA” – highly recommended. Answers below provided by owner Scott Maitland.

How did your establishment start?
Top of the Hill started to keep TGIFriday's from dominating downtown Chapel Hill. I had the idea while I was in law school and I spent the third year of law school getting it opened. I ended up getting a lot of investors but I have run the establishment since we opened on Sept 5, 1996 (the night Hurricane Fran hit Chapel Hill). My General Manager Guy Murphy has been with me since 1998.  My Chef Trey Cleveland has been with me since 1999.

What unique service(s) does your establishment provide for Chapel Hill nightlife? 
The founding idea of Top of the Hill was that Chapel Hill did not have any place where every element of the UNC and Chapel Hill communities could come together.  I envisioned Top of the Hill as the Social Crossroads of Chapel Hill and I believe we have accomplished the mission.

Sum up your establishment in one or two sentences.
We are also the 4th or 5th oldest brewery in North Carolina.  Carolina is either the 3rd or the 4th.  But I feel like TOPO and Carolina Brewery have done more to introduce Carolinians to craft beer than any other establishments.