There are only a couple of days left to visit Dozier’s Barbeque in Fulshear before it closes for good on March 30. Ed Dozier opened the barbecue joint in 1957, and Steve Baur and Jim Cummins purchased it in 2019. They told me in a joint statement via email that several challenges, including rising costs of labor, meat, and other goods, contributed to the closure. “We concluded that it was largely the things we could not control, rather than the things we could, that couldn’t be overcome,” they explained.

Baur and Cummins hired pitmaster Jim Buchanan in 2020, hoping to bring the joint back to glory. Buchanan added his new-school barbecue technique to the traditional meat market, now a rarity in Texas. The place has long been known for its cured bacon and large variety of house-made smoked sausages prepared for the last 59 years by “Big Sam” Palomarez. Buchanan’s barbecue helped bring a new level of attention to Dozier’s, but he left last October to pursue a job in New Mexico outside of barbecue.

Despite Buchanan leaving, Baur and Cummins felt like they made the right decision in letting him update their menu. “The Fulshear demographics were and are changing dramatically and we felt that the craft model played favorably into those changes,” they said. The interest in Dozier’s simply wasn’t enough to sustain both the meat market and the barbecue restaurant. For now, the owners will entertain offers on the building, the brand, or the entire Dozier’s business.

Dozier’s is the latest in a string of historic joint closures over the last few years. Bolner’s Meat Company in San Antonio opened in 1914 and closed to the public in 2020 in response to the COVID pandemic. It eventually reopened, but only to sell raw meat wholesale. The barbecue counter and retail meat market are closed indefinitely. COVID may have been the breaking point for Prause Meat Market in LaGrange, which opened in 1911, but the aging family who ran it was long tired of the grueling work required to keep it running. Back then, co-owner Brian Prause called their combined meat market and barbecue joint “a dying breed.” Dozier’s is just the latest casualty.

Steven Onstad had just celebrated fifty years in business at the Swinging Door in Richmond when he decided he had smoked enough briskets. “This old BBQ guy has decided to move on to another chapter in life,” he wrote in a Facebook post to his customers, and then put out the fires for good last Mother’s Day. When Onstad started selling barbecue in 1973 he assumed it would be a temporary gig. “I’ve watched the evolution over the last five decades, and it’s been a fun ride,” he told me several months before announcing his intention to close.

Over in San Antonio it was more of a surprise when Grady’s Bar-B-Q abruptly closed all three of its locations last May, after 75 years in business. The properties had been on the market since 2020. Loyal customers of Mac’s Bar-B-Que in Dallas had advance warning that second-generation owner Billy McDonald would close the restaurant his father opened in 1955. McDonald had been trying the sell the business, the building, or both since 2015. By 2021 he hadn’t received a satisfactory offer, but decided it was time to close, regardless. He told me a few days before turning the lights off for the last time that, at 67 years old, it was finally time for him to travel. “When you’re here every day, you can dream about it, and you can watch YouTube videos about it, but you can’t do it,” McDonald said. “You have a commitment.”

When Mac’s first opened, it took cues from the local Shoemaker’s Barbecue, where the smoked meat was filler for sandwiches, and customers added pickles, onions, sauce, and other garnishes from a condiment bar. Back in 1931, James Thomas Bailey, a nephew of the Shoemaker’s founder, opened Bailey’s Bar-B-Que in downtown Fort Worth using the same service model. His grand-niece Brenda Phifer ran it for years, and recalled “we had sawdust on the floor and school-type desks” when she first stared working there. The sawdust was long gone when the building went up for sale earlier this year. Bailey’s was purchased by the owners of Panther City BBQ, who renamed it Fort Worth Barbecue Company a couple weeks ago.

Panther City BBQ is known for its modern take on Tex-Mex barbecue, but it wouldn’t make good business sense to open a facsimile restaurant less than a mile and a half from the original. The new owners have kept the weekday lunch hours and the inexpensive, sandwich-focused menu Bailey’s was known for.

Up in Lubbock, a pair of Shoemaker’s acolytes opened Tom & Bingo’s Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q in 1952. Founder Tom Clanton and later his son Dwayne ran the place. Dwayne was planning to retire and turn the reins over to his son-in-law Ian Timmons. After Dwayne’s sudden death in 2017, what had been a planned smooth transition was a jarring one for Timmons, but he kept the restaurant going.

Once Timmons got his footing, he ushered in a new menu with a focus on craft barbecue at Tom & Bingo’s. The changes—such as sliced brisket by the pound, pork ribs, and the addition of sides and desserts—came with mixed reviews from long-time customers who just wanted barbecue sandwiches, and from the Clanton family who knew only one version of Tom & Bingo’s. Timmons coveted a modern, steel offset smoker, but stuck with the old brick pit he inherited to honor the joint’s legacy. “Cooking new-school barbecue on an old-school pit was my idea of the new version of Tom & Bingo’s,” he told me recently, but it didn’t last. This January, Timmons closed Tom & Bingo’s, and it’s currently for sale.

“Last summer our building started falling apart,” Timmons said. The building and the pit were both constructed when the restaurant opened in 1952. He said the first issue was an exhaust fan that pulled the smoky air from the pit and out the chimney. He thought the repair would be simple, but it proved difficult and costly. Then the ice machine broke, and the refrigerator stopped working. “They don’t seem like big things, but when your margins are so small . . .” he said. Timmons tried to focus more on sales through a food truck he purchased to serve off-site. He considered another location, and put an order in for a new smoker, but it had a long lead time.

Last September, Timmons hoped simplifying the menu would make Tom & Bingo’s more profitable. He wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page, “the love we once had for craft bbq doesn’t feel the same.” In October he asked for customers’ patience as they repaired the building. In January, Timmons decided he had fought the closing long enough. He canceled the order for that smoker and announced the final day, January 20, for what was then Lubbock’s oldest restaurant. “If you’re not selling beer or alcohol or a massive quantity of barbecue,” Timmons explained, “the revenue coming in with the tiny margins, you’re going to start to wonder why you’re doing this.”

Austin’s oldest barbecue joint is House Park Bar-B-Que, opened in 1943. The sign on West 12th Street still reads “need no teef to eat my beef,” but the place has been closed since a fire in 2020. Owner Matt Sullivan told KXAN back in 2022 that he hoped to bring the joint back later that year. Two years later, I was curious if Sullivan had given up on the idea of reopening, so I gave him a call.

“It has taught me a whole new level of patience,” Sullivan said of the rebuilding process. He had to wait to be cleared of arson, and after several months investigators concluded that a grease fire started in the old brick pit. Insurance claims from the business and Sullivan’s landlord had to be settled, construction costs exceeded the estimates, and city plumbing issues further delayed the process. The City of Austin required Sullivan to bring everything up to current building codes, which wasn’t easy in an eighty-year-old restaurant, but construction is nearing completion, and he expects to reopen House Park Bar-B-Que later this year. “The pit room got to stay the same,” Sullivan said, though he’s not sure how long it will take to get the old pit back in working order. “The building will be a little different, but it’s going to be the exact same concept,” Sullivan said, so we’ll put this one in the win column for Texas barbecue history.