It started with a Facebook post.
Alan Riley, the owner of Dugan’s Pub, posted on Facebook that he is close to losing his business after several years of serving locals and tourists. Dugan’s Pub is a mainstay of the Pinehurst dining scene, having won numerous awards and accolades. It was listed as one of the top 10 percent of restaurants globally. Riley also won Pinehurst Citizen of the Year in 2017.
Riley discussed with Sandhills Sentinel the challenges facing not just his pub but all restaurants during the pandemic.
His journey to becoming the owner of Dugan’s Pub started in 1998. He was working another job but came to Pinehurst to volunteer during the 1998 U.S. Open. At the time, Dugan’s Pub was owned by four people.
During the U.S. Open, their grandchildren told them to hire the guy with the red hair to run the restaurant. He accepted the job that July. In 2014, he bought the remaining stock and became the sole proprietor.
Dugan’s Pub has been feeding locals for nearly 25 years.
According to Riley, Dugan’s Pub is facing pressure on several fronts.
He needs more staff just like other businesses in Moore County. Riley needs at least three new staff members and could use four more. Riley pays his back-end employees a salary, and his bartenders/servers average $25 to $31 per hour, including tips. Despite that, he is having a hard time recruiting employees. Riley attributes this to several factors.
Many of his staff faced harassment and threats over enforcing mask mandates. Additionally, he believes the enhanced unemployment has contributed to it.
“Why should people work when they get an income without lifting a finger,” said Riley.
He is also facing rising costs and declining income like most restaurants. Food prices have gone up 17-31 percent. One obvious response is to raise prices as many restaurants have done. BLS data reports that, on average, restaurants raised prices between 6 and 7 percent last year.
“I don’t want to do that to the community because we are part of the community,” Riley stated.
Riley also had to cut back on his philanthropic work. For years, he has supported BackPack Pals of Moore County and the food bank with financial support and fundraising efforts.
Over the years, it has gone from 200 kids to over 1,100 kids who get a backpack of food to take home over the weekend. These are children who eat at school during the week and, without the extra help, may go hungry over the weekend. You can check them out on Facebook here.
Another possible hurdle will come in April if the Village of Pinehurst doesn’t extend the pandemic policy of street dining for restaurants that don’t have outdoor seating such as Dugan’s Pub. That would be another blow to revenue that has fallen 31 percent for Dugan’s Pub, with January being the worst yet.
“I don’t know what to do, but I am trying everything I can think of to keep the business open,” Riley concluded.
Owner of Dugan’s Pub, Alan Riley, discusses his menu and hours on Feb. 2, 2022.
While the future is uncertain for Dugan’s Pub, here’s hoping that Shepherd’s Pie with lamb and the world-famous Guinness beef stew doesn’t fade from the local scene.
Dugan’s Pub is located at 2 Market Square in Pinehurst. You can check out their menu here.
Feature photo: Alan Riley, owner of Dugan’s Pub, in Pinehurst.
~Article, photos, and video by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Chris Prentice. Contact him at [email protected].