Business

Billy’s Bar-B-Q closed; Joella’s Hot Chicken coming in

The sign for Billy's Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q restaurant was photographed on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 at 101 Cochran Rd. in Lexington, Ky.
The sign for Billy's Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q restaurant was photographed on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 at 101 Cochran Rd. in Lexington, Ky. LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

Another longtime Lexington eatery is gone: Billy’s Bar-B-Q has closed for good. But foodies will be able to comfort themselves with hot chicken.

Billy’s owner Bob Stubblefield said Monday that “it was just time. I’m 65; it was time for me to turn a new leaf. If there is another leaf.”

He said he might do some catering down the road. The restaurant, known for its Western Kentucky-style barbecue including mutton, closed for good Sunday night; Stubblefield joked that he was blaming “global warming. If Bernie Sanders can get away with that, so can I.”

Stubblefield said increased local competition from the many new barbecue joints played a role in his decision.

“But the main thing is I’ve done it for 37 years, and you just get burned out doing stuff for that long a period of time,” he said.

Employees were surprised when he announced the news Sunday. “I’ve got folks who’ve been with me for a while, and I care about them. Some of them took it kind of tough last night,” he said. “We had some teary eyes. It’s just one of those things.”

One employee asked for the restaurant’s jackalope, which Stubblefield gave her. Some of the other memorabilia will go to Everything But the House for auction, he said.

The restaurant at Cochran and Tates Creek roads will be renovated and reopened as Joella’s Hot Chicken, the first franchise of the popular Louisville place owned by Tony Palombino, who also owns BoomBazz Gourmet Pizza and Manny and Merle’s, a bourbon bar.

“It’s the finest chicken you’ll ever eat,” said Bruce Rosenblatt, managing partner. “We start with Kentucky Proud pastured product, brined for over 24 hours in secret herbs and spices, breaded in special seasoning we’ve mastered, then fried. Wonderful flavor. Six different spice levels; we can turn on the heat.”

Joella’s will open in late February or early March, he said.

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