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Durham’s Saint James Survived an Explosion and a Pandemic, but Not Real Estate Changes

The beloved seafood restaurant will shut down in October

A selection of items offered on at Saint James
A table at Saint James.
Forrest Mason Media
Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas.

“I have some unfortunate news to share,” starts the Instagram post from Durham eatery Saint James Seafood (806 W. Main Street, Durham), “Yesterday I let my team know that our lease has been terminated.” The caption from chef/owner Matt Kelly goes on to explain the the restaurant must vacate the space by November 1, so its last day will be in early October.

According to the Triangle Business Journal, there is a proposal with the city of Durham to turn the Saint James address and surrounding land into “... retail and office space with associated parking garage, utilities, culvert rerouting, and bus stop.” Charlotte-based real estate investment firm Asana Properties owns the address and has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Saint James has had a tough time in its four years in business. After a 10-month shutdown due to a gas explosion in the Brightleaf Square area, Kelly was able to reopen his beloved Durham restaurant in January 2020. The dining room wasn’t running for long before North Carolina bars and restaurants were forced to close on March 17, 2020, due to the spreading pandemic. Saint James opened for takeout that summer and then finally reopened the dining room at the beginning of 2022.

Kelly remains optimistic in his Instagram post however, stating, “... every time there’s bad news, there’s some good news right around the corner.” He also says that Saint James is currently looking for a new location.