St. James Seafood, the acclaimed Durham oyster bar and seafood palace, will close this fall after a tumultuous four-year run in the city’s Brightleaf District.
From chef Matt Kelly, St. James served a menu blending exquisite raw seafood and shellfish towers with the joy of fried fish and regional favorites.
Despite its acclaim, the restaurant has been sidelined by a series of disasters, both local and global.
In 2019, St. James was closed for nearly a year following a fatal gas explosion from a nearby building. Once it opened in January 2020, it was quickly shuttered again by the COVID pandemic.
In announcing the closing, Kelly said the restaurant’s lease had been terminated by its landlord, Asana Partners, which purchased much of Brightleaf in late 2019.
“I have some unfortunate news to share,” Kelly posted on the restaurant’s Instagram page. “Yesterday I let my team know that our lease has been terminated. In that conversation, I told my team how proud I am of them and how much they’ve grown in the short time we have been together. I’m very thankful for their commitment, hard work and perseverance through the good times and the bad times.”
Kelly is also an owner of Durham’s top restaurants, including Mateo Tapas, Mothers & Sons and Vin Rogue.
St. James opened in late 2017, transforming the old Fishmonger’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar into the foodie capital’s latest gem. Former News & Observer dining critic Greg Cox called St. James a seafood “paradise” in a 2018 review, awarding the restaurant a nearly perfect 4.5 stars.
Kelly said St. James will close in early October and that he expects to make the most of the restaurant’s final two months.
“I am in complete awe and have deep gratitude to the Durham community for supporting our creative process,” Kelly said. “We celebrated 20 years at Vin Rouge and 10 years at Mateo this year. The next two months we’re going to celebrate Saint James Seafood’s 4 years.
In the post, Kelly said St. James will still have a pulse after the closing, suggesting it could reopen in a new location and serve pop ups in the future.
“I wanted to say a big old thank you to everyone who has been part of our journey,” Kelly said.
This story was originally published August 17, 2022 1:26 PM.
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