Durham’s iconic East African restaurant The Palace International announced today on social media that their lease was not being renewed and that they would be closing on February 27.
The restaurant was founded in 1989 by husband and wife Maurice and Caren Ochola. The Ocholas had each come to the United States from Kenya to attend college before meeting, marrying, and settling in Durham. The original location of the restaurant became something of a local legend before sadly burning in 2001.
In 2007 the Ochola’s reopened the Palace International in its current Broad Street location, reestablishing the restaurant’s beloved reputation with the help of their children Moses and Suzana. Moses Ochola also went on to help found the Black Farmers’ Market.
In an Instagram post and video Suzana and Moses joined their mother Caren to explain that they had been unable to negotiate a lease extension with their current landlord, who notified them two weeks ago of the decision not to renew and gave them 30 days to vacate the property.
“This abrupt announcement is both disheartening and uncomfortable after working so hard and succeeding in staying open during COVID, paying bills, and supporting our staff through so many obstacles,” they wrote.
The restaurant was not immune to the rash of break-ins that effected Durham restaurants last year during the pandemic, finding itself the victim of a smash-and-grab this past October. However they were able to recover, and earlier this month were even able to raise funds for a $10,000 interest-free loan through the non-profit Kiva.
Despite their success boot-strapping to cover their needs and stay open during the pandemic, the decision ultimately came down to their landlord. The Instagram announcement notes that the family will continue the catering side of the business and that they “are hopeful that this is the beginning of a new chapter.”
The family said that they intend to begin immediately searching for a new space for the restaurant and in the meantime are inviting customers who want to help to order catering, purchase a gift card, or donate to their transition fund.
“We have every intention to reopen The Palace and to pick up where we’ve left off,” they write. “We look forward to serving you as soon as we can. With immense love and admiration, The Palace family.”