KINGSPORT — Bone Fire Smokehouse, recognized on national television just a few years ago for its signature ribs, is closing its doors in downtown Kingsport.
Owner Doug Beatty said Bone Fire and the adjoining Bus Pit entertainment venue will hold a last event New Year’s Eve, and then both businesses will call it quits.
“We’ll do a New Year’s Eve party at the Bus Pit with Bone Fire catering, and then I’m pretty much done in Kingsport,” Beatty said. “Kingsport’s been brutal to me.”
Bone Fire and the Bus Pit were two of several projects started by Beatty in downtown Kingsport. A business developer and promoter who had success with Barley’s Taproom and the Brewgrass festival in Asheville, N.C., Beatty came to Kingsport several years ago and saw potential, particularly in the old State Theatre on Broad Street. He acquired that property in 2005 and began renovations in 2006.
Beatty then opened Bone Fire (formerly called 12 Bones restaurant), restored the old Kingsport Grocery Company and opened a restaurant there, and opened the Bus Pit, a renovated music venue. All three of those ventures were located on Main Street.
Then the Great Recession hit, and business began to decline. The Kingsport Grocery Company closed, and Beatty stopped renovations on the State Theatre. That property has since reverted back to Citizens Bank of East Tennessee in Rogersville.
The bank foreclosed this month on the property that houses Bone Fire and the Bus Pit, forcing those businesses to close.
Bone Fire was recognized on national TV for its ribs, and it’s listed as the No. 1 restaurant in Kingsport by tripadvisor.com.
But that’s not enough to keep the restaurant going here.
“For us, downtown is just not an attraction,” Beatty said, adding he has signed a lease on a new location in Abingdon and will open Bone Fire there.
These days, Beatty has only criticism for Kingsport.
“The major downtown developments are parking lots and roundabouts, none of which bring people to downtown,” he said. “We hate that we put all that money and blood and sweat and effort into turning downtown around, and every chance it gets the city just tries to go backward.”
Jeff Fleming, Kingsport’s assistant city manager for development, said city officials “strive to create an environment where private investment can succeed.”
“In the past 10 years, there has been more than $37.7 million in private taxable investment in downtown Kingsport alone. That’s a 70 percent increase. There has been an additional $129 million invested in public/semi-public (non-taxable) projects,” Fleming said.
“Unfortunately in this economy, this story has become all too familiar nationally. For the most part, we’ve avoided the worst here in Kingsport. I think we’re all waiting and hoping things take a turn for the better. In my line of work, I know so many good people and companies who have been impacted. It doesn’t make it less painful, though. Sometimes business initiatives just don’t work out as planned,” Fleming said.