Popular Dunn Restaurant Comes To An End

Inventory to be auctioned off online

DUNN – One of Dunn’s most popular steakhouses is now closed ­— shuttered early by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic before an interstate expansion project put the final nail in its coffin.

Billy Tart, owner of the iconic Brass Lantern restaurant, closed the steakhouse’s doors for the final time after its last carryout order was fulfilled on April 25.

“We’ve been very blessed our 27 years,” Tart said. “It’s not the way we wanted to be the last day, with the virus.”

Tart wanted to give customers an opportunity to have a final taste from the menu, which turned out to be what many might consider a fitting end. By the time the night was over, Tart said, he nearly ran out of food.

“We did the take out to give people a last chance. We ran out of pretty much everything we had,” Tart said. “We really didn’t buy up a lot of stuff, we really didn’t know how it was going to end.”

Tart says he and the staff at Brass Lantern have had a very good run and were very lucky to find such a loyal customer base. He was especially proud of all of the special events his restaurant hosted over the years.

“We’ve just been so fortunate with so many special events,” he said. “Businesses, anniversary, Christmas, people have been so unreal how they’ve supported us over the years.”

When you ask him what he will miss most about the restaurant, he immediately says the people and the staff.

“Our staff is just like family,” he said. “It’s hard on them all.”

Tart bought the restaurant 28 years ago and opened it a year later.

After nearly three decades, the Brass Lantern is closed. The building will be demolished to make way for an Interstate 95 lane expansion through Harnett County.

“My daughter was born the year we opened, and she’s getting married this year, too,” he said. “And our first grandbaby, it’s been a very exciting time for us and a little emotional in a lot of ways.”

Along with closing the doors, there is the matter of cleaning out the building before the North Carolina Department of Transportation brings the demolition crew in to tear it down for the Interstate 95 widening project. In order to do that, Tart has partnered with Wester Auctions to give the general public and other businesses the chance to buy supplies or souvenirs.

“A lot of people have asked us about certain things in the restaurant,” Tart said. “It’ll be online and it’ll be where they can look at it and actually bid for seven to 10 days. People can follow it as it’s going on.”

Randy Wester, who runs the auction company, said once the sale of the building is closed, the process will begin. He said the property inside the building will be divided into lots for auction.

Each lot will be inventoried, photographed and posted online. There will be no minimum bids or “reserve” price, Wester said.

“We’ll post everything online and you can go in there and bid like you do on Ebay and other sites,” Wester said. “It’ll run until a certain day and the winner will have two or three days to remove the items purchased.”

Between 300 and 400 lots will be up for auction, he said. They will be larger lots with other restaurant buyers in mind. But there will also be smaller pieces, such as artwork, for individual bidders who may want a keepsake from the restaurant.

“Some things will be individual, any artwork, any memorabilia, will be sold separately so the public can pick that up,” Wester said. “There’ll be a lot of small lots that will sell in the $5 to $20 range. A small lot may go for $5 to $10 and the walk-in coolers or freezers might bring $2,000 or $3,000 each. There’ll be a wide range of prices.”

With the end of the Brass Lantern’s run, Tart’s other popular restaurant, Triangle Waffle, will now be the focus of his culinary life. He intends to re-open the morning staple for many in the area, as soon as possible.

“Right now that is my intention,” he said. “To keep it just like it has been.”

For more information on the auction of Brass Lantern’s equipment and memorabilia, bidders should visit westerauction.hibid.com or call Wester at 984-500-9395 or John Martin at 919-522-9802.

The date the auction begins will be announced after a closing on the property is completed.

-Dunn Daily Record