STUART — Cowboys BBQ Steak Co. restaurants in Fort Pierce and Okeechobee will remain open despite the Stuart location closing May 24.
The unexpected closing left about 35 mostly part-time employees surprised and jobless.
Owner Jim McCoin said he couldn’t continue to absorb losses at the restaurant, 2902 S.E. Gran Park Way. He said he had been draining profits from the more successful Fort Pierce and Okeechobee locations to prop up the Stuart restaurant.
After spending about $200,000 to open the Stuart restaurant in June 2010, McCoin said he had to take money from his personal bank account to meet payroll last Friday.
“That was too much,” he said. “I never made any money from that place in five years, but things got worse about six months ago, and then two months ago they got even worse.”
McCoin said Cowboys may be more of a disconnect in Martin than St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties, which are more rural and have stronger cowboy heritage. He also cited other U.S. 1 restaurant closings in the past few years, including Applebee’s, Ruby Tuesday’s and others that have a proven concept and success almost everywhere else.
“It makes you wonder why,” McCoin said. “The people are there, the traffic is in front of it, so why are they closing?”
McCoin said he owes employees for their last week of work, and those checks will be processed on schedule next Friday.
The decision to close was made so quickly he didn’t have an opportunity to tell employees, he said.
“I gave an average of 45 people job for five years, and not once did anyone thank me,” he said. “But the minute you close down, they bash you.”