Clyde Cooper's BBQ reopens in downtown Raleigh - for now

Elaina Athans Image
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Clyde Cooper's BBQ reopens in downtown Raleigh - for now
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The boards remain up at Clyde Cooper's BBQ, but the Wilmington Street institution reopened Wednesday for a two-week trial run.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The boards remain up at Clyde Cooper's BBQ, but the owner has spray-painted much of the plywood to write that the Raleigh institution is again open for business.

The Wilmington Street restaurant reopened Wednesday and the next two weeks are a trial run.

Owner Debbie Holt wants to see how the sales go and it'll help her make a decision.

It has been a seven-month wait for loyal customers who enjoy southern classics such as fried chicken, mac and cheese, and Carolina barbecue.

"I have wonderful customers. I've had so many reach out," Holt said.

The hiatus, though, has put immense stress on Holt.

"I've lost so much money," she said. "I don't want to say it out loud."

She dealt with the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and saw destruction firsthand when George Floyd protests turned violent downtown.

There was looting and damage throughout the area.

Holt said that on those nights in May, she kept calling police, begging for help that didn't arrive.

She then came out in strong opposition of the mayor and the police chief, calling for both of them to resign.

Holt's anger has waned little all these months later.

"We got hung on. We got yelled at," Holt said of her calls to police. "We got told, 'We're not sending anybody out because it puts them in harm's way.' I said, 'What the hell about us?'"

The aftertaste of the City's response has Holt considering moving Clyde Cooper's out of downtown Raleigh.

"I'd love to relocate out of downtown, and I'm working on that," she said. "I feel sad. I know downtown is not a person, but my God, it was so alive at one time, and they (city leaders) just let it die. They spent all this money on renovation and to rejuvenate it and look at it now."

Holt isn't comfortable yet taking down the boards and wants that extra layer of protection in case tensions again flare.

She said, however, that the restaurant will remain a Raleigh fixture whether on Wilmington Street or elsewhere.

"Cooper's will never die. It will always be around. I'm going to make sure of that," she said. "Closing this business is not an option. We're 82 years old. So we will come back stronger."

If Clyde Cooper's were to leave, it would follow in the footsteps of another Raleigh institution.

Briggs Hardware has packed up and relocated to the coast.