Loyal customers of Gates BBQ mourn loss of Independence location to fire

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- A famous metro barbeque restaurant location, which has been around for decades, burned to the ground overnight Tuesday and now regular customers of the Gates BBQ in Independence are sharing their fond memories of the place.

People were driving to the scene of the restaurant’s remains all day long Tuesday just to stop and take a picture. The location has been around for more than 35 years, and to see the buildings burned out shell is devastating to many.

David Smith says he heard earlier Tuesday that Gates BBQ in Independence caught fire during the early morning hours, when an exhaust hood over the grill caught fire.

"My in-laws still live here, so every time I come back to visit, my first stop is Gates," said Smith.

Smith owns his own restaurant in Santa Cruz, California, but he's been coming here since it opened, and even knows the owner, Ollie Gates, personally.

"The people inside have been here for years, Ollie has certainly helped the community," Smith said.

In fact, he even sells Gates BBQ sauce in his restaurant in California.

"Oh, you can't get BBQ like this anywhere else in the world," said Smith.

Regular customer Debra McDaniel says her boyfriend is a truck driver on the road, but he used to come as a little boy with his parents. She says they love everything about this place.

"I wish my boyfriend was here, because he's the one who got me hooked on this place 22 years ago," said McDaniel. "You can't explain it, it's just really good BBQ. The beans, I think the beans are one of my favorites, I like the ham, and I always buy the big bottles of BBQ sauce.”

Many regular customers say upon seeing the damage, there was one obvious question:

"Where are we going to get BBQ at?" said McDaniel.

And many customers were devastated to see what was left.

"All us restaurant owners stick together, and when somebody loses a place like this, it's pretty sad, and everybody tries to get together and help everybody out," Smith said.

Both Smith and McDaniel say the other locations are far from home, so is the distance worth it to get that famous Gates BBQ?

"You bet! Probably tonight," Smith said.

Gates says he vows to come back.

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