Brad Cooper, owner and operator of Coop’s West Texas Barbecue in Lemon Grove, became concerned when customer traffic through his eatery was lighter than usual over the Labor Day weekend.
Then he became outright frustrated Tuesday when customer traffic hit a record low, he said.
The slow down occurred after an Aug. 30 fire broke out in the chimney of a brick oven pit. Lemon Grove fire crews responded and the flames were quickly extinguished, fire officials said.
The restaurant, popular with locals, was not damaged by flames, Cooper said. But something was still amiss, Cooper said.
“Someone had told me that there were headlines written about fire ripping through the restaurant,” he said. “So I checked.”
Cooper said he was stunned and felt it was clear why business has slowed. All the news reports on the fire concerned him. And at least one online report used a photo illustration of a wall of flames.
Very little flame was seen during the Aug. 30 fire, Cooper said.
“We were actually opened by 12:45 p.m. that same day,” he added.
He has since taken to Facebook to clear the record, he said. His online followers have done the same, sharing a post in which he explains the eatery did not burn down.
The added pressure of losing business over a holiday is tough, he said. It’s been frustrating enough dealing the fire pit, Cooper said. Since the blaze, it has been professionally cleaned, he said.
And he is working on a plan to make sure this does not happen again, he told Lemon Grove Patch in a phone interview.
“This is actually the third fire that we’ve had since we’ve been here,” he said.
All of them have been inside the pit that was built by the original owners. Coop’s West Texas Barbecue is the third business to occupy the facility. They will have been there three years as of Oct. 1, Cooper said.
“Now we’re trying to modify so that not so much grease falls on the charcoal,” Cooper said.
You can read Cooper’s Facebook message to his followers on the restaurant’s page.