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St. Petersburg’s Dr. BBQ has closed

The popular barbecue restaurant opened in 2018.
St. Petersburg's Dr. BBQ has closed. [Courtesy of Dr. BBQ]
St. Petersburg's Dr. BBQ has closed. [Courtesy of Dr. BBQ]
Published Dec. 30, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG — EDGE District barbecue restaurant Dr. BBQ has closed.

The restaurant, which opened in October 2018, was a collaboration between celebrity pitmaster and St. Petersburg resident Ray Lampe, aka “Dr. BBQ,” and Datz Restaurant Group proprietors Suzanne and Roger Perry.

Lampe, the licensor for the Dr. BBQ name, confirmed the shutter Friday morning on a podcast episode of the local food blog St. Petersburg Foodies.

In August, the Perrys sold the 7,935-square-foot building that houses both Dr. BBQ and the rooftop tiki bar Burnt Ends to the South Florida developer PTM Partners for $4.5 million, the same group developing the nearby Moxy Hotel, part of the new mixed-use development Edge Collective.

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 that restaurant,” she said. “I was proud of that restaurant; we worked very hard on it.”

Perry said the rapid change in the downtown St. Petersburg landscape, in particular the EDGE District, played into their decision to sell the restaurant. She also said 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 want that real estate in the world’s worst way,” Perry said. “This was simply a real estate transaction. In that corridor of development, in this particular day and time and 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 barbecue Hall of Famer and the Perrys goes back several years before the restaurant’s launch. As part of their agreement, Lampe signed on to a five-year licensing agreement with the Perrys to use the Dr. BBQ name. When the restaurant opened, the national barbecue scene was burgeoning and the spot debuted to plenty of hype, boasting an over-the-top array of smoked meats, Southern-inspired comfort food with creative twists and a large selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes.

“It possibly was ahead of its time a little bit,” Perry said. “But we cared about it and loved it and were passionate about it.”

Burnt Ends Tiki Bar, a tiki-themed bar above the Dr. BBQ space, has also closed.
Burnt Ends Tiki Bar, a tiki-themed bar above the Dr. BBQ space, has also closed. [ Courtesy of Burnt Ends Tiki Bar ]

In early 2021, the group expanded and revamped the second story space into a tiki-themed cocktail bar, serving Polynesian-inspired snacks and tiki classics.

There are no changes afoot for the remaining Datz Restaurant Group restaurants, Perry said.

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“In 2023 our goal is to get back to quality service 101,” she said. “It’s been extremely difficult these past couple of years with so many people leaving the industry.”

No word on what will happen next with the EDGE District space. An email to PTM Partners was not immediately returned.