By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer
Aside from a big “Closed” sign taped to the door, Ben’s Bar-B-Q on Prince Street still looks open.
Chairs and tables still populate the floor and a menu above the counter spells out items the restaurant has been serving for about 20 years.
But the doors of the barbecue restaurant closed for good Dec. 3.
Owner Ben Barrow said he’ll be keeping his memories of all the Clovis residents who have eaten with him through the years.
“It’s been a pleasant experience with all the wonderful people of Clovis,” he said.
Barrow, who has lived in Clovis all his life, said competition with the Clovis Civic Center for catering services was a major factor in his decision to close his restaurant.
“That’s $6 million worth of taxpayers’ money that can (afford to) lose $1,000 a day. They went into direct competition with us catering for weddings and wedding rehearsals and family reunions,” said Barrow referring to the Civic Center. “It’s hard to compete with.”
City Commissioner Robert Sandoval said he didn’t know Ben’s Bar-B-Q was going out of business.
“I hate to hear that,” he said. “That was the best barbecue restaurant in town.”
However, Sandoval said he doesn’t see how the Civic Center has anything to do with the restaurant closing.
“I don’t see any comparison,” he said, explaining that events held at the Civic Center are similar to those held at places such as the Holiday Inn, which typically cook their foods on-site.
As someone who managed a restaurant before, Rudy Garcia said he understands Barrow’s reasons for closing.
“It was like six or seven days a week, 15 hours a day,” said Garcia who managed the Mabry Lounge and Barbecue (which has been closed for several years), where Barrow worked before he opened his own restaurant. “I heard from other friends that have talked to me that have said that he was just getting tired of fighting the old rat race.”
Robin Howe, who has been a regular customer of the restaurant since coming to Clovis about three years ago, calls its closing a shame.
“I’m definitely saddened,” he said. “… Everybody knows about Ben’s and everybody eats there. It’s part of the community, and it’s a shame to see them close their doors.”