Popular BBQ shack plans move to Pantego
A popular barbeque restaurant is blaming Arlington's "negative" small business climate as the reason for its move
Citing frustrations with the City of Arlington’s small business climate, Jambo’s Barbeque is packing up one of its locations and moving to Pantego.
The owners of Jambo’s have closed on a contract to purchase the building occupied by D-Two Bar-B-Q near the intersection of Pioneer Parkway and Bowen Road, with plans to relocate its Little Road restaurant in the coming months.
Jambo’s has faced an uphill battle bringing its signature barbeque to Arlington, according to co-owner Ashton Stauffer.
Problems started when they purchased a defunct “shack” in the 2500 block of Little Road. Stauffer said the City allowed the building, which had gone unused for 15 years, to retain its use as a convenience store.
But when Jambo’s prepared to install a smokestack, the City said it would require a change in use, which would require an additional bathroom to be built.
“It’s unreasonable to expect a small business to have $50,000 offhand to tear up a building to install a bathroom,” Stauffer told the Arlington Voice.
She told City officials that other restaurants in Arlington, including a Subway she formerly owned, was allowed to have just one bathroom.
“They said ‘that’s just the way it is,’” Stauffer said.
The problem was further compounded when the City would reportedly send back the proposed plans for the smokestack.
“They kept asking for much more expensive material to be used rather than letting us use generic material,” Stauffer said. “It also cost us a lot of money to have to repeatedly pay a professional to redraw the plans every time the City sent it back.”
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Instead of installing the smokestack, she opted to transport daily the barbeque from their Rendon location to Arlington. This lasted until she and Paul Lovato, a co-owner in the business, eventually agreed to install the smokestack on their own terms and chance the City finding out.
Stauffer said the plan lasted until things began heating up over their second Arlington location set to open in the Arlington Steakhouse building on Division Street.
Public fallout over an unpermitted mural painted on the side of the building invited additional scrutiny. City inspectors found self-installed smokestacks at both locations and mandated the one at Little Road be removed.
Stauffer said the City has since added a requirement that a three-compartment sink in the kitchen be moved to accommodate a smoker.
But Rick Ripley with the City’s Community Development and Planning Department says the City has “worked continuously” with Jambo’s to ensure its locations meet “minimum standards” for life and health safety.
“The City has clearly communicated with the owner about issues, including unpermitted construction work and what changes needed to be made to ensure its businesses were in compliance with minimum standards as set forth by city and state regulations,” Ripley wrote in an e-mail.
The Little Road location would need a change in use – which brings with it a bathroom requirement -- due to an expected increase in occupancy, Ripley said. Additionally, the restaurant would be preparing the food on-site rather than off-site, which triggers different requirements. The City says Jambo's never applied for a change in use or obtained the proper permits.
He added that Jambo’s was given the option of obtaining construction permits for the unauthorized smokestack, but that they opted to remove it instead.
Stauffer denied being offered to obtain construction permits, and claims she was called by a city official late at night and “threatened” to remove the smokestack or her business would be shut down in 24 hours.
The stress and expenses, which have climbed over $200,000, have prevented her business from making a profit, Stauffer said.
“The City of Arlington is the ‘Dream City’ for big players, but not small businesses,” Stauffer said. “Pantego is graciously extending their arm and welcoming small business into their city.”
She and Lovato spoke to the Pantego Economic Development Corporation Wednesday evening about opening in the township. They’re seeking a $50,000 incentive to resurface the parking lot and make exterior improvements to the aging structure.
The PEDC would have to approve any incentive before it moves to the Pantego City Council for a final vote. According to the City’s Manager, Matt Fielder, the incentive is still “under consideration.”
Regardless, Stauffer said Jambo’s is moving, and it’s moving fast.
“We’re staying at the Division Street store unless Arlington gives us a reason not to,” Stauffer said. “But our Little Road lease is up for option in the next few months, so we’re moving quick.”