0

Downtown restaurant closing

The Riverfront Bar-B-Q on West Broad Avenue in Albany.

The Riverfront Bar-B-Q on West Broad Avenue in Albany.

ALBANY, Ga. — One of the mainstays of Albany’s downtown district announced Wednesday afternoon plans to pull up stakes.

Dale Saunders told The Albany Herald he will close the doors of Riverfront Bar-B-Q on Jan. 31, ending a 5 1/2-year run as perhaps the most unlikely success story in a revitalization effort that has had trouble maintaining momentum.

Saunders closed his next-door satellite restaurant, Grace’s Country Cooking, last Friday.

“I’m not saying anything bad about downtown, but things started slowing down at that location about a year ago and it just hasn’t picked up,” Saunders said. “When B.J. (Fletcher) closed her store (Cafe 230), I expected business to pick up. But it’s actually gotten worse.

“I don’t have an answer. We didn’t expect all of B.J.’s customers to come to our place, but we definitely expected some increase. When it didn’t come, I decided to consolidate all of my business at the Lee County location.”

Saunders said he will focus his culinary energy on the Riverfront 2 Bar-B-Q location at U.S. Highway 19 South in Lee County and on his catering and mobile trailer businesses. Saunders operates one of his trailers at the Albany Mall and said he will look into having the other at a location downtown.

“When you get as big as we did, there’s a lot of overhead in things like running large coolers overnight,” the restaurateur said. “For that to work, you have to have a dinner business or a lot of customers.”

Downtown Manager Aaron Blair said Wednesday he was disappointed that Saunders had decided to close the downtown restaurant, but he expressed optimism that a new establishment would fill the vacancy.

“Obviously, it’s awful that one of our downtown businesses would close, especially Riverfront Bar-B-Q,” Blair said. “But Mr. (Bob) Brooks (the property owner) has assured me that location would not be without a tenant very long, if at all.

“While I’m disappointed, I understand that Dale has got to do what’s best for him. We just hate to see him go.”

Saunders, who opened the 105 W. Broad Ave. location in 2007 and twice enlarged it to meet demand, said he’d enjoyed three years with sales of $850,000 or greater. But he said sales had fallen sharply over the past year.

“The economy probably had something to do with it, but I wish I knew what the answer really was,” he said. “Maybe it had something with the work on the (Broad Avenue) bridge; maybe it was other things. I know for all 5 1/2 years I was downtown, there was always talk about major changes, but they never happened. People just quit believing it.

“I’ve told a few people about my plans — young and old — and almost all of them have said the same thing: ‘I don’t blame you.’”

Comments

FryarTuk 1 year, 8 months ago

Sorry to see Dale leave downtown. I know he has tried hard. Our business has worked with him on some creative ideas and the man puts his money, muscle and soul into what he does. I regret it didn't work out for him and for the downtown. I have concluded that the downtown just will not be revived. The City and County has such an awful reputation and the leadership is just smudged with selfcentered politics and agendas there is no way in hell that place can emerge successfully. The patrons have voted with their feet and their purses and that's just the way it is. It could have been done but there are too many blood suckers hanging on.

I will patronize Lee County BBQ. It's the best restaurant BBQ I have ever eaten and I gladly drive the extra few miles though I do feel a loss for our city.

0

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 8 months ago

Every major city within 100 miles of Albany has a vital, thriving downtown. What's wrong here?

4

Mr_Heatmiser 1 year, 8 months ago

The area surrounding our downtown is the highest concentration of poverty in southwest GA. That might have something to do with it.

Also, a good bit of our downtown looks like somebody with a bad case of ADD and no taste tried to paint Afghanistan.

0

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 8 months ago

Or.......Port Au Prince, Haiti as is currently looks.

0

urbanpurpose 1 year, 8 months ago

Sister, do you support dtown? It's hard to ask what's wrong if we who comment don't support. The food just wasn't as good as it used to be at his place. Stretched to thin just like BJ

2

FryarTuk 1 year, 8 months ago

I ate there Wednesday & the BBQ was as good as ever.

0

dingleberry 1 year, 8 months ago

Is it a matter of people don't support downtown or is it there is simply little in downtown for people to support?

4

FryarTuk 1 year, 8 months ago

Look, it is a self fulfiling proposition. Albany and most particularly downtown has a stigma, a cultural stigma. Some of it perceived most of it deserved. People do not want to be seen there unless there is a "pinky lift" pahty at the mudhole called the Riverquarium. I could enumerate the stigmata but suffice it to say it includes from ATI to Postell to Piker to Velveeta to Arthur to Murfree, to Cutliff Grove, etc., et al. The only way for this community can survive is to consolidate with the county and become the City of Dougherty County. The name "Albany" is social and civic poison. It is over for Albany, it's dead. It is decaying and it smells to high heaven. ATI and Downtown Albany have proven conclusively it is finished. Until the people of the community demand a consolidation it is as good as it gets. (That could be a movie title.) As in all major diseases the condition expands. If the community doesn't respond the County will be among the walking dead in a generation. You don't believe it? Look at the demographics of 1960 census of Lee County and look at the expanded cultural and development boundaries being pushed into and beyond Dougherty.

0

dickyboy 1 year, 8 months ago

I have been downtown since 1971 and am planning to move both my businesses by the summer..when the local government destroyed the 200 blocks of broad and pine years ago downtown was doomed..theyre were over 60 stores or offices in those blocks..they plucked the heart out of downtown...plus we're only 1 block from harlem the 300 block of broad is now looking like the 300 block of Highland ..Aaron Blair is invisible

4

whattheheck 1 year, 8 months ago

The blocks you mentioned and the buildings they housed formed the critical mass that was needed to make a downtown viable. What is left not belonging to some form of government is too little and too spread out. Downtown as a shopping destination won't work since people are not willing to drive past multiple stores offering many choices in the NW to shop in one store with limited choices downtown. When things reach this point, which was reached years ago, there is no turning back.

0

dickyboy 1 year, 8 months ago

So now we have the Cookie shop and subway... how sad....

1

tocar 1 year, 8 months ago

Downtown will not ever be revived as so many hoped for. It is a generation gone and you cannot duplicate what use to be. The city needs to stop pouring monies into a bottomless pit and see realty for what it really is.

4

chinaberry25 1 year, 8 months ago

I hate to see if, but the answer to downtown restaurants are the mobile units. Many bigger cities have them all over and they rent space just like buildings. People like quicker less filling meals at lunch., Like soup chili and sandwiches that are ready quick. I love his bar-be-que and have bought from them for years. I have since started going to Lee Co. and will continue in the future. Downtown could use a good Chinese, bar-be-que and more dogs and hamburgers. Look at what the Cookie Shoppe serves and this should indicate what is wanted.

0

bigbob 1 year, 8 months ago

Down is just a money pit for your tax dollars period, they can throw millions of your tax dollars at it but it will never be reborn. If these leaders were spending their own money they would of gave up a long time ago.

3

Jimboob 1 year, 8 months ago

Downtown started to die when Midtown opened. Then came the Mall and all the business moved there. What's the reason to go downtown? What would make you go there instead of the Mall?

0

urbanpurpose 1 year, 8 months ago

Dickyboy. What business do you have? From what I see the 300 block of broad just cleaned up a lot over the last couple months. Maybe it's because those biz are African American owned that you think that. Don't forget our daily bread and cool scoops is downtown. I hear there is a new place going into the pizza shop too.

0

urbanpurpose 1 year, 8 months ago

My guess is that 75% of us on here don't even know what is downtown currently. I go sometimes to our daily bread on friday night for dinner st it is amazing.

0

urbanpurpose 1 year, 8 months ago

Dickyboy your "Aaron Blair is invisible" comment is funny. I've been there once last month and I saw him at daily bread eating dinner. I don't know him personally but I didn't used to go downtown before he came. Maybe we shouldn't be so mean to people. Maybe they would stay in Albany. Just a thought. Be kind and supportive

1

FlunkyMonkey 1 year, 8 months ago

...and then there were none. Those of us who work downtown really miss these restaurants but we can't support them alone....BJ I sure do miss your chili!

0

sammyrayw 1 year, 8 months ago

We could sure use a restaurant like Mama Jean's Country Cooking downtown. Although I work near the mall, I would eat there. You just do not have anywhere like that anymore. BJ's is good, but it is the same old stuff there everyday. We need variety.

1

Allan63 1 year, 8 months ago

The leaders need to rethink the strategy. Is it worth it to keep spending money to lure retail stores downtown. Unless several national retail stores move downtown to act as an anchor small local retailers moving downtown will continue to fail. I think its time an independent group made up of local taxpayers was formed to come up with potential solutions to begin asking questions that can lead to ideas and solutions. Is revitalizing the current downtown even feasible anymore? Maybe we should focus on other areas of the community.

2

Russ 1 year, 8 months ago

I have an idea...don't think I've seen or heard this one before...replace it with a...wait for it...HOT DOG PLACE.

0

Somebody 1 year, 8 months ago

Well they do have Jimmie's Hot dogs not too far away and little red dog house is down the street as well. Although they are not your ideal sit and eat place. Maybe an inside joint that serves hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries etc.

1

Somebody 1 year, 8 months ago

Unless you are talking about a restaurant called Hot Dog Place.

0

albanyherald1 1 year, 8 months ago

So sad! I loved Riverfront BBQ downtown. Just can't get into the Lee County location for some reason. Maybe too much competition all around there to choose from. I agree with the posting above. Maybe downtown needs more food trucks like the big cities. We definitely need more than 2 choices for food, Cookie Shoppe and Subway.

0

dickyboy 1 year, 8 months ago

Aaron Blair hangs around Washington st only...that's where his and his wifes business is...

1

Oldguy 1 year, 8 months ago

Look at Moultrie, Tifton and Thomasville. They all have a viable downtown because they did not allow it to go downhill to the point of extinction like Albany did. ADICA is simply a tax dollar pit. There a ample patrons for downtown rich, poor and middle class within one mile of downtown. One person here was correct that it started going downhill when Midtown Shopping Center opened, that was the time to start saving it. Then the Mall opened and drove the last nail into the coffin of downtown. Just knock it all down and build a small mall with ample parking and security. It would require outside investors to achieve this instead of tax dollars. Hundreds if not thousands of people drive past downtown daily going to the Mall, give them something to stop for.

2

Cartman 1 year, 8 months ago

Dang! That was about the only place to take someone from out of town, if you wanted to go downtown. But it is understandable. It's not Dale's fault. Like BJ Fletcher, he gave it as good a shot as one could give it. I just wish the decision makers would realize that downtown just isn't happening. Throwing more taxpayer money into trying to make it something that its not; is just irresponsible.

IMHO, gerrymandering the Wal-Mart tax money into downtown also gerrymandered it away from East Albany where it is sorely needed and could do more good.

2

whattheheck 1 year, 8 months ago

Seems to me we have had a variety of eateries fail downtown in the last 10 years or so. Perhaps there isn't enough lunch time business for more than the few now there and dinners didn't work out well for those who tried. Also, there is not a lot of disposable income to spend on many lunches by those who do work downtown. It's just not a good situation for business or patron at the moment and it is not likely to change. And if a restaurant can't make it downtown, what can?

1

outsider 1 year, 8 months ago

Hey Dickyboy- Mr Blair doesnt have a business. YES, his hard working wife does and guess what-She wasn't allowed to recieve a dime of any of the grant money or anything that's available to others because of her husband's position. She's not moping and crying like all you babies! The comment of his "invisibility" is Ludicrous!! I see him out meeting with others on a daily basis. Maybe, Dickboy, you are the recluse one or the one judging? Im beginning to think Mr Blair could turn water into wine and do flips on the corner and people would still question Him or anyone trying to make a difference in this town. Furthermore, it saddens me that we have such a vibrant talent among us and the people here give him little credit. How do you expect ANYTHING to change if you don't give it the proper time and respect? Its only been what-2 years? 2 years to clean up decades of BAD choices..please. Mr Blair, I applaud you for your attempts and for continuing to put up with such complaining, ungrateful, visionless people. It's only a matter of time before he wearies of the nonsense and moves on & I wish him & his family well!!!

0

TRUTH101 1 year, 8 months ago

I loved this place but couldnt vist often....they closed well before I got off.....Why would you close at 2:30 or 3:30?

1

VSU 1 year, 8 months ago

Not enough customers during those hours probably. Too costly to stay open for 1 or 2 customers. I've noticed Michael's BBQ on Gillionville is now closing at 3:00 in the afternoon instead of 7:00pm.

2

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 8 months ago

Mr. Saunders states “I’m not saying anything bad about downtown, but things started slowing down at that location about a year ago and it just hasn’t picked up,” Saunders said. “When B.J. (Fletcher) closed her store (Cafe 230), I expected business to pick up. But it’s actually gotten worse. I don’t have an answer. We didn’t expect all of B.J.’s customers to come to our place, but we definitely expected some increase. When it didn’t come, I decided to consolidate all of my business at the Lee County location.”

Just a thought........is there a quiet boycott underway against all white-owned businesses downtown? Have the Black Ministers called for a boycott? Just a thought.

0

Brother_Love 1 year, 8 months ago

No surprise you would bring race into the equation. I am surprised you didn't state this was a President Obama conspiracy against white businesses. There is still hope for you yet.

0

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 8 months ago

Weren't you going to change your name to Love_Brothers?

0

Brother_Love 1 year, 8 months ago

No more than you were going to change yours to Ruby_Sisters.

Don't knows what you smokin' , must be that wacky weed, I ain't said nothing about changing my name.

0

skydog 1 year, 8 months ago

What a shame. This place has the best BBQ in town, no one even comes close IMO. Will continue to support Riverfront in Lee County.

1

Jacob 1 year, 8 months ago

Wow. Did you really just put that nonsense in writing?

1

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 8 months ago

It's actually just a yes or no question.

0

Jacob 1 year, 8 months ago

Its actually just foolish, racist vitriol spewed by a hateful troll. If you ever had a shred of credibility, that vulgar accusation blew it for you. The Herald should ban you for your hateful speech.

0

FryarTuk 1 year, 8 months ago

And your comments are so kind and gentle, you oafish prig.

1

FryarTuk 1 year, 8 months ago

So now we've heard it from the Rev. Heard after school delinquency program.

0

VSU 1 year, 8 months ago

Well I only ate there one time so I don't have the right to complain about them closing as I don't go downtown that often, but nonetheless I am sorry they are closing and wasn't able to make it. I can say it was great bar-b-que and I loved the chili cheese fries. I'll make it a point to visit the Lee County restaurant and the food truck.

0

outsider 1 year, 8 months ago

Until this town gets over it's Racial issues, they will NEVER move forward. Wake up people! Its 2013!!! Unbelievable....SMH

0

D_Zaster 1 year, 8 months ago

Someone should just open up a horse and buggy showroom, providing the latest in traveling, along with a blacksmith and a steam-boat parts shop, and downtown will look just like it did back when it was thriving!

0

TrixibelleBento 1 year, 8 months ago

Rats...I always took my business customers there. One of my regulars asks to go there exclusively. Can't go all the way to Lee and I'm not feeling the food truck. I guess food trucks do well in other communities, but I prefer to sit at a table that's inside, especially in the summer. RIP Riverfront BBQ.

I miss the days of San Joe's, Harvest Moon and Riverfront.

1

Cartman 1 year, 8 months ago

I miss them too. But now that you've named them, I just noticed a common denominator. All three still exist. They moved away from downtown. They didn't go out of business.

0

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 8 months ago

I still haven't heard a Yes or No to my question. It's sad when mean people attack you for just asking a simple question.

0

VSU 1 year, 8 months ago

I'll meet you halfway sweet sister........My answer is maybe, I mean it is a possibility, but don't have any evidence, so I have to say maybe.

1

TRUTH101 1 year, 8 months ago

yes there is a boycott.....it is a consperincy against white business owners.....LOL

0

Jacob 1 year, 8 months ago

It is sad that you are allowed to spew your race baiting nonsense, ad nauseum.

0

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 8 months ago

I'll take that as a "Yes".

We all remember how coachjohnson/bubbasmithredneck/et al were promising that there were "plans in the works" to counter what he/she called "the hidden agenda". I've just been on the lookout for what those plans might entail.

0

FryarTuk 1 year, 8 months ago

Well, just take yourself over to hear some encouraging words from your role model Rev. Heard at the delinquency shelter before your late.

0

Jacob 1 year, 8 months ago

I will go and mentor students and contribute to the good of the community. What will you and your sheet- wearing cross burners do this evening for the city? Since the hanging tree was cut down on Jefferson, where do you all go to talk about the good old days when the darkies knew their place?

0

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 8 months ago

Be sure and get the politically correct history books when you tutor. You know the ones...with the Obama Logo on, similar to my avatar (without the hammer and sickle)

0

FryarTuk 1 year, 8 months ago

Well, Jackov, you fit right in. The whole program is a total failure. You've denied your connection all along with the Rev because you didn't want anyone to know. It's good to get things out in the open.

1

Jacob 1 year, 8 months ago

Yes, it is good to get things in the open. I note that you made no denial about your sheet wearing club. Are you the grand lizard, or whatever you racist cowards call your leader?

0

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 8 months ago

Be sure to go see Django Unchained at the movies. It's on me. Just go to the ticket booth and ask for the two tickets for "Jacob" paid for by "Sister Ruby". That movie is right up your coal chute. Enjoy! It will do wonders for Community Relations! It completely matches YOUR view of history, thanks to some immature POS filmmaker from Holllywood, California who makes POS "films" and who I'm sure knows a LOT about history and whose aka Street Name in Hollywood is "the world's foremast 50-year old man with the emotional maturity of a 15 year old boy". HA HA HA HA!!

0

Jacob 1 year, 8 months ago

You are basically CoachJohson, only from a different neighborhood, aren't you? Sweet irony, you posting about emotional maturity.. Now I know how progressive black people feel when CJ spouts his nonsense and embarrasses them.

0

FryarTuk 1 year, 8 months ago

We call them togas, Son of Heard. Your projection on to others of your inadequacies is pretty severe. You can't find a comment I have made that is remotely racist except in the recesses of your contorted little mind, Cretan.

0

Cartman 1 year, 8 months ago

Am I the only one to notice that the "invisible" comments seemed to strike a nerve? Or is it coincidence that the thread was flooded with long damage control posts all of a sudden?

Not a criticism. Just an observation.

0

Ihope4albany 1 year, 8 months ago

Dear Community Colleagues,

Let us begin a new talk and a new walk. God is trying to tell us something Albany. As a nation celebrating the 150th Year Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Albany of all places should understand how the present for all of us is still being held hostage by an unresolved past. There must be healing Albany in order for Albany to thrive again. There must me healing America for America to thrive even more.

For those who declared Albany dead in this post, in a spirit of spiritual authority from on high, I rebuke those words of death and speak life for Albany, Georgia just as President Abraham Lincoln spoke life for our nation in the Gettysburg Address.

I challenge everyone of us to read or reread the Gettsyburg Address. Reflect on whose responsibility it truly is for Albany to live and not die- "....-- and that government of the PEOPLE [i.e., CITIZENS], by the PEOPLE [i.e., CITIZENS], for the PEOPLE [i.e., CITIZENS], shall not perish from the earth.

Albany, I am here to tell you in case you did not know, Our Community Glass is half full! Not only that Albany, God has some more wine for Our Community Glass. However, He can't give it to us because our bottles are old. He can't put the new wine in our old bottles Albany because the bottles would burst.

My fellow Albany Herald Comment Posting Team, let us help our community where we stand and create new bottles. Let us create new bottles for the world (Job Creation) to come and drink at our Artesian wells in this Good Life City (Tourism). Let us come together at downtown eateries (Job Creation) and arts and cultural event places (Job Creation) and tell our stories of Albany's Flint River of Healing (i.e., our own Swamp Gravy). Let this team be the coordinating committee that sparks Albany's downtown!

0

Sign in to comment