wilber's barbecue

A group of buyers looks to revive and save one of North Carolina's most historic barbecue restaurants, currently in the midst of financial trouble.

Wilber's Barbecue in Goldsboro closed earlier this year and filed for bankruptcy protection, the first time its pits had cooled for long in nearly six decades. The 88-year old owner and namesake Wilberdean Shirley opened the whole hog barbecue restaurant in 1957 on US. 70, feeding generations in Eastern North Carolina and surviving as one of fewer and fewer traditional pit smoked barbecue stops in the state.

But Wednesday, a purchase agreement was entered into North Carolina's Eastern District Bankruptcy Court, outlining a potential passing of the torch for the barbecue institution.

Goldpit Partners, LLC has agreed to buy Wilber's for $350,000. The sale will go through pending the court's approval at a hearing next month. Goldpit was a corporation created this month and includes Goldsboro community members with an appreciation and affection for Wilber's and North Carolina barbecue traditions, said attorney Joseph Frost, who has represented Wilber's through the bankruptcy.

"They intend to resume and reopen the restaurant's operations here in the coming future," Frost said Wednesday in a phone interview.

The terms of the sale look to cover all of the debt burden currently on Wilber's. When the restaurant filed for bankruptcy in March, it claimed around $350,000 in debts and less than $100,000 in assets. Much of the debt is from a $150,000 lien for an equipment loan, but there's also more than $100,000 in unpaid federal and state taxes.

The closing of Wilber's followed an unfortunate trend of closings in the past year, as North Carolina lost some of its best known smokehouses. Allen & Son in Chapel Hill closed last December and Bill's in Wilson closed in January. Frost said the potential buyers are eager to reopen Wilber's.

"The longer it sits, the harder it is to reopen," Frost said. "This was a well-oiled machine, and once it stops, it's like a car."

Frost said a sale was quickly realized as the most likely way to satisfy the debts, that Wilber's day-to-day operations couldn't cover the six figure debt.

Raleigh Attorney Gerald Jeutter is representing Goldpit Partners. A call to Jeutter was not immediately returned.

(c)2019 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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