Unpaid Bills and Illness Conspire to Close Ernie’s Restaurant

ernies-225x300Ernie’s Restaurant, a beloved soul food joint which daily drew 200 customers with its turkey necks and lima beans, has apparently reached the end of its 36-year run on Spring Street.

Owner Ernie Kinloch last month closed the restaurant for renovations; according to Kinloch, plans to reopen were derailed when his sister, Essie Bryan, became seriously ill.

“My sister who’s been running it is sick in the hospital,” Kinloch says. “Right now, I hope she pulls through her sickness.”

In addition to managing the restaurant, Bryan handled its finances. Charleston County tax records show Bryan last year sold the 64 Spring St. parcel to a Kiawah Island real estate developer for $30,000.  Property owner Al Roberds didn’t return calls seeking comment, so the future of the address is unclear.

Kinloch reports he’s not currently paying rent on the building, but deferred questions about unpaid tax bills to Bryan.

“She was handling all of that,” says Kinloch, adding the family may consider looking at other locations for the restaurant if Bryan’s condition improves in coming weeks. Ernie’s was the last bastion of lowcountry cooking on a street that’s gentrifying rapidly: A few weeks before Ernie’s closed, a gluten-free bakeshop opened down the block.

Although Ernie’s kept a weekday-only schedule, Kinloch earlier this year told the Post & Courier’s Shirley Greene that he wanted the restaurant to have a Sunday dinner feel: home-style cooking and freewheeling conversation were the restaurant’s hallmarks.

Roadfood’s Michael Stern described Ernie’s as purveyor of “one of the most satisfying low-cost dinners in all of Charleston,” praising its okra soup and white rice.  One of the participants in a 2012 Charleston Wine + Food Festival soul food tour that stopped at Ernie’s was so impressed by the restaurant that she later returned to celebrate her birthday with a helping of bread pudding.

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