Center City Exchange is a new webinar series hosted by Center City Partners. The program provides a forum for people to connect and share information, as well as listen to and learn from experts. Below are overviews of the first two Center City Exchanges. Stay tuned to this page for upcoming events. 


Center City Exchange: Restaurant Industry 


  • Jon Dressler: owner of Rare Roots Hospitality, a group that include’s Dressler’s, Dogwood Southern Table & Bar, The Porter’s House and Fin & Fino. 
  • Greg Collier: A James-Beard nominated chef who (along with his wife Subrina) owns The Uptown Yolk in 7th Street Public Market and Leah and Louise in Camp North End. 
  • Alyssa Barkley: COO for North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association. 
  • Jesse Leadbetter: Local farmer and co-founder and CEO of Freshlist, a local food delivery service. 
  • Joe Haubenhofer: Founder of The Plaid Penguin, a boutique agency that builds powerful brands for restaurants and food industries. 

The discussion was led by Kristen Wile, editor/founder of Unpretentious Palate


Top Takeaways

  • Communication is key for restaurants to stay relevant and connected to their followers, as well as to share safety measures and make guests feel confident in their safety.

  • Customers want good, simple comfort food. 

  • Support local – product, protein, dairy, meal kits. Even with restaurant dining room closures, diners can support local by purchasing produce boxes and raw proteins from local farms at restaurants. Many farmers have also shifted focus to farmer’s markets, and small shops such as Tip Top Market or NoDa Company Store are selling local produce as well. Freshlist, a company that supplies many of the city’s best restaurants with local produce, is piloting delivery and offering pick-up.

  • Restaurant spaces and experiences will be different — from restaurant layout to one-time-use menus — and customers will need to adjust too.

  • Some experts believe that at least 30% of local businesses will not survive, and the pandemic has exposed some long-standing issues in the business models of restaurants. 

To watch the full discussion, click here




Center City Exchange: Re-Opening for Business


  • Dena Diorio: Mecklenburg County Manager
  • Walker Wilson: Assistant Secretary for Policy at North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services 
  • Taiwo Jaiyeoba: Assistant City Manager and Director of Planning, Design and Development at City of Charlotte 

The discussion was led by Adam Rhew, Charlotte Center City Partners Chief of Staff. 

Top Takeaways:

  • North Carolina will transition from each phase based on data from testing, tracing and trends and in consultation public health officials and leaders in the business community. The governor’s goal is to lift restrictions in a safe process that reduces the transmission of COVID-19 and moves the economy forward.

  • Most businesses can open under Phase 1 by using social distancing guidelines, hand washing, sanitizing/cleaning protocols and wearing face coverings by staff, employees or guests.  Businesses that are still closed are salons, personal care, gyms and restaurants (carry-out only permitted). Parks and trails are re-open. Gatherings are still limited to 10 people.

  • The public is encouraged to continue to stay at home during the current order. However, if they must leave the house it is strongly recommended to practice social distancing and wear face coverings to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The state, county and city are not making face coverings mandatory due to small segments of the population that wouldn’t be able to wear face coverings – children under 3 years old, people with respiratory issues and or people with disabilities.

  • The City of Charlotte, and the state of North Carolina have tool kits and resources available on their websites that outline each phase and recommended guidelines on re-opening.

  • In Mecklenburg County, most businesses are re-opening slowly and cautiously to ensure a timely process of re-hiring employees and implementing social distancing guidelines, testing and sanitizing/cleaning protocols.

  • The City of Charlotte is being responsive and innovative to county and state guidelines. They are examining how the pandemic affects density, public transit, outdoors and open spaces that can craft policies for years to come.  The city has tested a shared street option where designated streets are closed to ensure the safety of pedestrians that would normally walk on sidewalks, but they can walk along the street within the 6 ft social distancing guidelines.

  • North Carolina will continue to ramp up testing and tracing capabilities of COVID-19. Businesses will be able to work with local health departments to do contact tracing if an employee test positively for COVID-19. 

  • Public Health officials continue to work with the state board of education on the process for re-opening childcare centers, public K-12 schools and higher learning facilities.

  • The state is working with a task force of leaders in the event, sports and entertainment industry to create guidelines and policies for gatherings in large venues and public spaces. The hope is to lift restrictions in phase 2 or 3.

  • The county and state will create a specific food and beverage toolkits for restaurants. There will be guidelines regarding capacity on indoor dining and outdoor patio dining, social distancing, hand washing, face coverings and sanitizing/cleaning protocols.

  • The current Phase 1 Executive Order 138 will expire Friday, May 22nd, 2020. If metrics are showing stabilization in number of cases and decreases overall, the state will take action to move forward into Phase 2.

To watch the full discussion, click here.