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Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Levine Museum Of The New South Selling Uptown Charlotte Site

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The Levine Museum of the New South is selling its uptown Charlotte building.

The Levine Museum of the New South is selling its uptown Charlotte location. The site is worth at least $7.7 million. Also in this week's BizWorthy: Some uptown law firms are calling employees back to the office. Will other businesses follow suit and wind down work-from-home policies? Plus, liquor sales in Charlotte have been going up. And up. And we take a look at claims about local hospital safety ratings.

There’s some big real estate news in uptown Charlotte. The Levine Museum of the New South plans to sell its site at the corner of Seventh and College streets. In a letter to members Wednesday, museum director Kathryn Hill said the museum must “imagine new ways to create and deliver content in the digital age.” For more on this and other news, we turn now to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: Tony, does this mean the museum will no longer have a physical space?

Tony Mecia: Well, Marshall, I think the plan is they're going to stay in their physical space, they estimate, for maybe about a year or so while this real estate deal goes through. And then they'd like to look at a different space in uptown, which they haven't located yet. They say they need space that's a little more flexible as they make this transition to more of a digitally focused enterprise.

Terry: Any idea what the current property might fetch?

Mecia: Marshall, the property value is listed at $7.7 million for the 0.7-acre space that they have now. A lot of times those estimates from the county wind up being less than the actual property is worth. So it could be it could be more than that.

Terry: Are we likely to see other museums go this route as well?

Mecia: You know, I think so. We talked to the museum's director last August. At the Ledger we'd heard some rumblings that this was happening. And at the time, she told us that a lot of museums are making this transition, that they're thinking of ways to reach audiences and connect with their community that's not just people visiting a museum and seeing some exhibits, but figuring out ways to make it more alive digitally online. The museum did say they're releasing a series of walking tours through the Brooklyn neighborhood, for example. So that's an example of ways that they want to connect with people that are just separate from traditional museum exhibits.

Andreas M
Booze sales are up in Mecklenburg County.

Terry: Liquor sales in Mecklenburg County hit a new record for May at $19.5 million, according to state figures, and that follows record sales that were set for the months of April and March. Tony, I guess as more people go out to bars and restaurants, they're in a celebratory mood after being at home for the past year.

Mecia: I think a lot of people are in a celebratory mood, Marshall. It's good to be able to get out, if you're vaccinated, and go have a good time. We're seeing a lot of activity pick up. When you talk about ABC sales, it really is a couple of different things. It's the sales from an ABC store — if you or I, for example, were to walk in and buy something. But they also sell to bars and restaurants. And so what ABC has seen in the last few months, they've seen a huge, huge increase in the amount of sales to bars and restaurants. And the individual sales in the ABC stores have also stayed very strong.

So, yes, it's not surprising, maybe. But I think what is a little surprising is the extent and the growth in liquor sales in the last few months. It's pretty remarkable. It's about, for May, overall, it was about 25% higher than it was in May of 2019, which is before the pandemic. Some of that is from bars and restaurants restocking, but it's also more and more people getting out. We talked to the owner of Lebowski's and Providence Road Sundries. He said he saw his sales go up about 12% from December 2019 — December is usually a big month — to May. So they're really seeing a whole bunch of activity — of people going out and drinking.

Terry: I want to stick with the return to pre-pandemic life for a moment. Several law firms in uptown Charlotte say they want their workers back in the office this summer. So are the days of remote working over?

Lagos Techie
Some uptown Charlotte businesses are calling employees back to the office. Are the days of working from home coming to an end?

Mecia: I wouldn't say they're completely over. A lot of these law firms and a lot of other firms are transitioning to really more of a hybrid model where they're not saying they want 100% of the people in 100% of the time, but they would like people to have a presence — a lot of them would. Not every company is doing that.

You're seeing a lot of tech companies that are being much more liberal about letting their people stay home more. But some of these companies, including law firms, and now I think we're going to get there with the banks, they're saying the expectation is that they want people in the office, that the mentoring and the training and the culture, that those have all been OK during the pandemic, but they're really better when they're in person. So they're starting to transition back to that. Some of the bigger law firms — Moore & Van Allen, K&L Gates — they're looking at really encouraging people to come back in the early part of July.

Terry: Tony, it seems that a battle is brewing between Charlotte's two hospital (systems), Atrium Health and Novant Health, over safety ratings. What's going on?

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Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter
This Novant Health billboard popped up on Interstate 277 in uptown Charlotte.

Mecia: Yeah, Novant Health has a billboard off of I-277 and maybe elsewhere where it says it has the safest health care in the Charlotte region, which sounds innocuous enough until you consider that there are really only two major hospital systems in the Charlotte region — Novant and Atrium. So are they sort of slamming Atrium? We took a little bit of a closer look at that.

And basically, they're saying that there were some safety ratings that came out earlier this year that showed Novant had a mixture of A's and B's that were slightly superior to Atrium's group of A's and B's. And so they're claiming they're safer. Atrium points to its high safety ratings from many other places — U.S. News and World Report, among others — and says it's perfectly safe. So it's sort of, I guess, in how you slice it, a little bit, Marshall, but both health care systems say they are safe for patients.

Terry: Now, who does the ratings that Novant is referring to?

Mecia: It's a group called The Leapfrog Group. It goes through and looks at a number of different statistical measures — things like how often hospitals do recommended procedures, how often they're leaving foreign objects and patients' bodies during surgery, those sorts of things. I mean, the numbers are very, very, very small on hospital errors. They do exist. But there are probably a lot of different ways of looking at that data.

Terry: All right, Tony, thanks.

Mecia: Thanks, Marshall.

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