Overland Park BBQ restaurant owner avoids looming closure, sets sights on a new concept

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Smokey’s on the Boulevard BBQ (Photo courtesy of Andrew Vaupel/Kansas City Business Journal)

Winston Riley almost talked himself out of sending the email newsletter to customers. Smokey’s on the Boulevard BBQ exists to sell good barbecue — not talk about its problems, he said.

But the Overland Park restaurant owner thought his customers deserved to know that Smokey’s demise was imminent. The restaurant faced “unbearable financial loss each day” and likely would close in the spring or summer, he said in a late November newsletter.

Although closing isn’t off the table, a few things have given Riley a more hopeful outlook, he said. Last week, he learned that payments on his Small Business Administration loan would be waived for the next three months. The loan, which is $11,000 a month, is his biggest expense.

“I’ve been on cloud nine since (Wednesday),” Riley said.

The news also reignited an idea to donate his restaurant and launch a nonprofit, the American Academy of BBQ, a world-class, accredited institution that would teach everything barbecue, including styles from around the world.

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