ST. PETERSBURG – The EDGE District Dr. BBQ barbecue restaurant has closed its doors.
The restaurant, which opened in October 2018, was a collaboration between famed pitmaster and St. Petersburg resident Ray Lampe, aka “Dr. BBQ,” and Datz Restaurant Group owners Suzanne and Roger Perry.
Lampe, the licensor of the name Dr. BBQ, confirmed the shutter Friday morning on a podcast episode of local food blog St. Petersburg Foodies.
In August, the Perrys sold the 7,935-square-foot building that houses both Dr. BBQ and the Burnt Ends rooftop tiki bar to South Florida developer PTM Partners for $4.5 million, the same group developing the nearby Moxy Hotel, part of the new Edge Collective mixed-use development.
Dr. BBQ had remained open until Thursday evening, which was the restaurant’s last day. A different tenant will operate a new business in the space for the next 18 months, Suzanne Perry said.
Perry called the decision to close “heartbreaking”.
“We loved this restaurant,” she said. “I was proud of this restaurant; we worked very hard on it.
Perry said the rapidly changing landscape of downtown St. Petersburg, particularly the EDGE district, played into his decision to sell the restaurant. She also said that the lack of parking spaces available to restaurant customers had become difficult to manage.
“It was very simple: Someone called us and said they really wanted this real estate in the worst way in the world,” Perry said. “It was just a real estate transaction. In this development corridor, at this particular time and in this particular economy, it was the right business decision to make. It was the only decision to make, to be honest.
The Perrys also operate Datz restaurants in Tampa, St. Pete and Riverview, the casual steakhouse Donovan’s Meatery in Riverview and Dough in Tampa.
The partnership and friendship between the BBQ Hall of Famer and the Perrys dates back several years before the restaurant was launched. As part of their deal, Lampe signed a five-year licensing agreement with the Perrys to use the name Dr. BBQ. When the restaurant opened, the national barbecue scene was booming and the place debuted with a lot of hype, offering an exaggerated range of smoked meats, Southern-inspired comfort food with creative twists and a great deal of choice of vegan and vegetarian dishes.
“It was maybe a little ahead of its time,” Perry said. “But we care about it, we loved it and we were passionate about it.”
In early 2021, the group expanded and revamped the second-floor space into a tiki-themed cocktail bar, serving Polynesian-inspired snacks and tiki classics.
There are no changes underway for the remaining Datz Restaurant Group restaurants, Perry said.
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“In 2023, our goal is to return to a quality 101 service,” she said. “It’s been extremely difficult the last two years with so many people leaving the industry.”
No word on what happens next with the EDGE District space. An email to PTM Partners was not immediately returned.