Barbecue shop may find home in Paradise

Deal to reopen downtown diner crumbles


Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo

Vermont Street BBQ owners Shad Woodworth, left, and Yale Baker, may be saying goodbye to their current location at 805 Vt. if they complete a deal to move to the former Paradise Cafe location at 728 Mass. A deal to reopen Paradise has fallen apart, and the barbecue restaurant owners are now close to signing a lease on the Massachusetts Street location, they said.

Goodbye, hobo eggs.

A deal to reopen the Paradise Cafe and bring back local favorites like hobo eggs, farmer's breakfast, Douglas County mud pie and other eclectic menu offerings apparently has fallen apart.

Instead, owners of Vermont Street BBQ confirmed Friday they were close to signing a lease to move their barbecue restaurant into the former Paradise Cafe location at 728 Mass.

If so, it would mean the end of a 16-year downtown tradition of Paradise Cafe's "real American food."

Paradise owner Steve McCoy had been negotiating with an unidentified party to buy the business and reopen it with its original menu. Paradise closed in early December as a result of financial troubles. It remained open as a bar for a few weeks but has been shuttered since Dec. 31.

"It looks like it is the end of Paradise," McCoy said Friday. "It is a sad thing. I'm frankly surprised that no one wanted to step in and reopen it. But I'm glad it looks like I have a deal. I need to move on with life."

Shad Woodworth, co-owner of Vermont Street BBQ, said the deal to move the barbecue restaurant was not final. He said last-minute issues stopped the lease from being signed Thursday, but that he was still working to complete the deal.

"Yesterday, I was pretty confident it would happen," he said. "Now I'm not as confident, but it seems like it still makes sense."

McCoy also said he expected the deal to be completed, likely within a week.

If completed, the purchase should provide a boon to the nearly 2-year-old barbecue restaurant, 805 Vt., which currently is limited to take-out or delivery orders.

"We definitely love being downtown, but we felt like we were missing out on a lot of business by not having the dine-in capacity," Woodworth said.

The new location also would allow the restaurant to have a bar.

"You could actually sit down and have a pitcher of beer with your ribs," Woodworth said. "I know I like that combination."

Woodworth said he expected the restaurant, which would probably still be called Vermont Street BBQ, to open four to six weeks after a lease is signed.

It will be a sad day for some. Linda Steele, a former employee who was leading an effort to gather community investors to buy the Paradise, said she was glad McCoy found a buyer but disappointed Paradise apparently would not reopen. She said the group had abandoned its efforts to buy the business after it appeared someone would step forward and reopen the business as Paradise Cafe. Now she said she was sorry she had stopped the effort.

"Losing Paradise is a sad day for Lawrence," Steele said. "American diners are just gone. You don't hardly see them anymore. They're all corporate. You don't have places where they're back in the kitchen putting love into the food."


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