Equipment auction planned, but owners vow to stay open

As owners of Bobby's Bar-B-Que prepare to auction equipment, future of restaurant is unknown
File/Staff
An auction at 11 a.m. Friday will sell warming ovens, catering trucks and other property of Bobby's Bar-B-Que at 1897 Jefferson Davis Highway in Warrenville.

AIKEN --- A sign outside Bobby's Bar-B-Que assures customers that the restaurant, which has been closed since Monday, will re-open by next Wednesday.

But the soon-to-be-owner, Bobby Griffin Jr., said he can't guarantee that.

"I would like to be opened by then, but I don't have any definite time schedule on that," he said. "I will continue to be in the barbecue business, and we're staying at that location. That's about all I can say."

That uncertainty includes an auction scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday of the restaurant's catering trucks, warming ovens, hot bars and even tables and chairs.

The current owner, Barbara Williams Griffin, wife of the late Bobby Griffin Sr., said it has been difficult to run her husband's barbecue restaurant since his death in December 2008.

She said the auction is a way to help downsize the gift shop, which has not been lucrative since the economic downturn. Selling the restaurant's contents will make room for much needed new equipment, she said.

"We're doing some remodeling and some changing, but this is not because we're in a financial bind," she said. "We're celebrating our 25th year, and we've had the same equipment since my husband opened it. We're going to replace some of the items."

Griffin filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on behalf of the restaurant in June, according to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Columbia. However, she said Friday's auction is not a means to pay off debt.

Auctioneer Dennis Cheeks, whose company will conduct the auction, confirmed that the auction is court-ordered.

"They are restructuring under a Chapter 11," he said. "We have bidders coming from out-of-state, so we are hoping to get the highest amount despite the economy."

Barbara Griffin said the store will remain closed while the family moves the gift shop out of the adjacent building on Jefferson Davis Highway to the inside of the restaurant. Employees were cut from the gift shop months ago due to the lack of business there. The gift shop's old building will be used as a banquet hall, she said.

Bobby's opened in 1985, Griffin said. Her husband's whole life was the restaurant, so she said it is important to keep it in the family. "We had an upsetting year with him being gone," she said. "I also had open-heart surgery, so it's been a lot on us."

Bobby Griffin Jr., who plans to take over from his mother, said he wants to uphold his father's name well, and keep quality barbecue as the center of the business.

The auction will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the restaurant, located at 1897 Jefferson Davis Highway, Warrenville.