Iconic barbecue restaurant Clyde Cooper’s says it will leave downtown Raleigh

One of North Carolina’s oldest barbecue restaurants will move out of its longtime home in downtown Raleigh, its owners say.

Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue, which has been in business for nearly a century, will soon move out of its downtown Raleigh location. Its owners, mother and daughter Debbie and Ashley Holt, cite crime and a lack of foot traffic on downtown streets as the reasons for the move.

“It’s just something we’ve been thinking about with everything happening in downtown Raleigh and everything no happening,” Ashley Holt told The News & Observer in a phone interview on Monday. “Ever since the pandemic things haven’t gotten back to where they were. We’ve been patiently waiting for foot traffic down our way and it’s just not happening.”

Debbie Holt said that she has felt uneasy in downtown Raleigh since the May 2020 riots, but has entertained the thought of moving Clyde Cooper’s for years.

“I would always flush (the idea of moving) out of my head, but this is the first time in my life it feels right,” Debbie Holt said. “Clyde Cooper’s was born and bred in Raleigh — it almost breaks my heart to do it. But it feels like the right thing to do.”

There is no timetable for moving Clyde Cooper’s, Debbie Holt said, noting she is now scouting locations in the Triangle for the restaurant.

“It won’t happen today and it won’t happen tomorrow,” Debbie Holt said.

The moving plans were first reported by the Triangle Business Journal.

Clyde Cooper’s is one of North Carolina’s most historic restaurant names, first opening its doors and smoking its brand of whole hog barbecue in 1938.

This will be Clyde Cooper’s second move in a decade, as the restaurant left its original downtown Raleigh location in 2014, moving about a block away to its current location on Wilmington Street.