Matt Fox and Dean James, the owners of seafood joint James Pharmacy in Hillsborough, announced on Wednesday that they would be closing permanently, citing the COVID-19 shutdown as the cause. 

“The honest truth is that for this restaurant to be financially sound it needs to be operating at full capacity nearly always, which can be challenging enough even in the best of times,” a statement posted on Facebook read. “We don’t see that as a possibility anytime soon, and don’t have the ability to wait for those days to return.”

Fox and James also own neighboring restaurant-pub the Wooden Nickel. In 2014, they opened LaPlace Louisiana Cookery inside James Pharmacy, re-branding the restaurant in 2019 with the name of the historic building. Located on N. Churton Street, the restaurant boasted an irreverent seafood menu, robust drink offerings, and what INDY restaurant critic Nick Williams described as “profound, soulful cooking.” It closed temporarily on March 17, due to shutdown restrictions, and consolidated takeout options with the Wooden Nickel. 

It’s by now a familiar story, though: takeout just wasn’t enough to carry two restaurants, and one had to go. James says that owners will now focus efforts on the Wooden Nickel, which has been a downtown Hillsborough staple since 2003. They will expand Wooden Nickel operations into the James Pharmacy building and are experimenting with different models for the pub, including offering more family-style meals and groceries from the farm that James and Fox own and source from. 

Dean James says that the restaurant loss is a blow. 

“I was just reading a post by this woman,” he told the INDY over the phone, “Her last meal before the shutdown was with us and she said she was looking forward to her next meal after the shutdown to be with us again. Stuff like that just breaks your heart. Restaurants are about communities and people. It’s not just about food and drinks. It never was.”

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