This restaurant, a favorite of Duke fans, is closing after three decades

Satisfaction Restaurant and Bar, long a favorite with nearby Duke University students, has closed.
Satisfaction Restaurant and Bar, long a favorite with nearby Duke University students, has closed.

After more than 30 years of slinging drinks for Duke students and the Blue Devil faithful, Satisfaction Restaurant and Bar has closed in Durham.

Sometimes known as Sati's, the sprawling Brightleaf Square bar quietly closed its doors last week. Its last day open was Memorial Day.

"It's a sad day," said owner Staton Ellis. "It's been a Durham institution for a long time. I wish I could have kept it going, but the numbers didn't add up."

Satisfaction opened in 1982, and Ellis bought it in 2004 after Brightleaf underwent a major renovation, becoming the walkable outdoor mall it is today. Ellis moved to Durham from his native Wilson to run the bar, saying he had been looking for a restaurant to buy and found the right fit with Satisfaction.

In recent years, though, he said, sales continued to fall and that when the lease recently ended, he thought closing the spot at 905 W. Main St. was his best option.

College bars usually go one of two ways, becoming decades-long institutions or coming and going with the student body, seemingly graduating along with the generation that loved them.

Ellis said Satisfaction struggled to gain much appeal with the newer generation of millennials. The restaurant held karaoke and kept a social media presence, but Ellis said Durham's blossoming downtown and recent crop of new restaurants were difficult to compete with. Satisfaction was packed on game days but struggled at other times, he said.

"We couldn't figure out how to make a connection with millennials, except for major sporting events," Ellis said. "If there was a Duke basketball game or during football season, we were busy. ... There has been a big shift downtown from Brightleaf; that's where the millennials are."

Satisfaction was one of Brightleaf's oldest tenants, along with Mexican restaurant El Rodeo. Ellis said he kept news of the closing quiet while he mulled possible refresh options, but eventually he chose to close, telling the restaurant managers and leaving it to them to pass the word. Some on social media posted about trying to visit, only to find the dining room dark and the doors locked.

"I want to thank Durham for years of support," Ellis said. "I want to thank my staff and employees; they were as much a part of Satisfaction as I was."

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