Court documents filed in June show that the department of revenue is the first creditor on a list of 20 that Barbara Griffin, the wife of late owner Bobby Griffin Sr., owed money to last year. According to the Chapter 11 filing, the business owed $362,407 in taxes, which Griffin disputed. Smaller debts of less than $3,000 were owed to Kimball's Plumbing, Heating and Electric, SYSCO Food Services and other revolving charge accounts.
Griffin said paying estate taxes, which are imposed on the transfer of the estate of a deceased person, was an unexpected expense after her husband Bobby's death in December 2008. That, coupled with paying for legal counsel, overwhelmed her, she said.
"You have to go through the process of getting all that done. It's very expensive," she said. "It's not because we didn't pay our bills."
A court-ordered auction scheduled for 11 a.m. today will help settle the debts the business owes, said auctioneer Dennis Cheeks of Cheeks Auction Co.
Griffin said her son Bobby Griffin Jr., who plans to take over the restaurant, will be one of the bidders in today's auction. Bobby Griffin managed the restaurant for the past several years, and has helped her cope with health problems and the bankruptcy, she said. She suffered a heart attack, and had open-heart surgery last year.
"I'm 72 years old. I couldn't have done this without him," she said. "He's just a great son. He's taking care of me, and he's taking care of this business."
A viewing of the barbecue equipment, tables, trucks, china, figurines and other items from the restaurant and gift shop yielded few potential bidders Thursday, Griffin said. The auction is a one-lot sale, which means bidders must purchase all the items up for auction.
"It's not what people expected, so I don't know if we'll have a lot of people bidding," she said.
Griffin said today's auction will determine when the restaurant will open again. Once opened, Bobby Griffin said he plans to make the gift shop a banquet hall and will try to sell gift shop items inside the restaurant.
A catering job scheduled for next week will happen even if the doors are still closed at the Jefferson Davis Highway restaurant next week, Barbara Griffin said.
"If we have to do it at my house, it's going to happen," she said, "We're getting this all straightened out, and we're asking the Lord to help us through it."