La Perla

The owner of La Perla restaurant in downtown Beaufort, Jessica Murphy, plans to close the establishment for good at the end of the year. (Elise Clouser photo)

BEAUFORT — Jessica Murphy, owner of La Perla restaurant, is urging residents in and around town to support local restaurants.

“I would encourage people to eat at local restaurants,” Ms. Murphy said. “You vote with your dollars, so just be aware of where you’re putting your dollars.”

Ms. Murphy’s comments come as her restaurant, located on Front Street in downtown Beaufort, prepares to shut its doors for good. She said a combination of factors led to La Perla’s difficulties in recent months.

“We’re closing at the end of the year and that’s just how it is,” Ms. Murphy said.

She brought La Perla to Beaufort two years ago after operating in Morehead City.

At the time, Ms. Murphy said her location in Morehead City was less than ideal.

“As one of our customers said, you have to try hard to get a worse location,” Ms. Murphy said. “We were on 20th Street, a mile from downtown. We were by ourselves in a strip mall…in a neighborhood that some people would consider sketchy.”

She admits things didn’t improve much, despite a more ideal location in Beaufort.

“It’s complicated,” Ms. Murphy said. “My volume (of customers) has been steadily decreasing since 2016. The parking may have hurt us, but we were starting all over again. I don’t know if you know this about people and restaurants, but we lost almost all of (the) Morehead City people. People just…they refused to go over a bridge, for any reason, especially if they are eating and drinking.”

According to Ms. Murphy, one of the major issues was simple math. There are only a few thousand people living in Beaufort.

“You’re slicing it thin,” Ms. Murphy said. “That means there are a couple hundred (customers) per restaurant.”  

She said navigating a pool of that size is difficult, particularly if you have to compete with other restaurants.

“There is just too much competition for too few people,” Ms. Murphy said, adding that hurricanes Florence and Dorian might have also played a role. “There are less people going out to eat because so many second homeowners are still working on their house, and there is less lodging. So this was a really tough year.”

She added the issue is exacerbated by residents who choose to eat meals at restaurants with corporate backing. Although Ms. Murphy didn’t call out any corporate-backed restaurant, she did say those establishments have the more financial security to lower prices beyond what local joints, like like La Perla, are able to match.

“If you just eat at corporate places, that’s what you are only going to get,” Ms. Murphy said. “Support the local independent (restaurateurs). If that’s what the people of Beaufort want, there it is, that’s what they want.”

Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 201; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.

(8) comments

Osprey

Market research is prudent prior to any capital investment. The 20th St location simply was not a sensible place for that type of business regardless of the racist comment of "sketchy" neighborhood. Population, demographics, and amenities such as parking should be considered prior to not after the fact. Just because Beaufort is cool doesn't mean it is a good place to do business.

AJ

I absolutely agree. Research before that kind of investment is important. I also agree, they need to look within. Stop blaming others. I know restaurants in the middle of no where, if people enjoy the meal, and vibe they will travel there to eat. Running any small biz is not for the weary.

CARTERETISCORRUPT

Maybe the county can pony up money to help this business, instead of Parker Boats who certainly needs none.

jackieray

Maybe the owners need to look with in and figure out what they did wrong and stop blaming others. When you changed the menu and no longer offered a mexican flare and increased prices you lost me as a customer. There a not that many chain sit down non fast food restaurants in the county. The old location off 20th street has a new Italian joint and they are rocking it. All five times we have gone into eat it was busy and lots of happy people with excellent food. Look with in and do a true assessment before you chose to open another restaurant and do your homework.

64shakers

Typical loser blaming everyone else but themselves. Location, location, location....is important. Perhaps too pricey, menu choices, quality, etc. Look in the mirror and don't blame others.

Rainman

When I was a teenager in the 80's I worked in that house when it was called the Cedars and was owned by the Osborne family. Great people and a great business. I'm not sure what happened to the place after I moved away a few years later but I'm disappointed to see it closing.

CARTERETISCORRUPT

A future sign: Beaufort closing due to poor management and poor choices.

Another sign: Commercial fishing to return to Beaufort.

Bambismith22

I love La Perla, the food was always awesome and the people exceptionally nice. I am really sad to see it close.

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