By Peter Galuszka

Hold the Texas Pete while I wipe away my tears.

The Mitt Romney campaign is featuring a two minute video of Richmond’s venerable Bill’s Barbecue restaurant chain. The firm’s president, Rhoda Elliott, narrates the spot claiming that growing unemployment under President Obama was the reason for the demise of the chain which featured Virginia-style pork barbecue, limeades and fruit pies.

Truth Squad time:

  • I may not be an expert but I do enjoy barbecue and having spent a lot of time in Eastern North Carolina, I have come to know the different types and what may be good and what isn’t. Since I have been coming to Richmond in the 1970s, I have always regarded Bill’s Barbecue as the worst barbecue I have ever tasted. It is dry, tasteless, and lacks bite. What’s more, I have often wondered about eating at Bill’s because of the often dirty dining rooms and restrooms they kept.
  • BBQ is actually doing well. Richmond has a good barbecue outlet, Buzz and Ned’s. In fact, during the same Obama years, B&N managed to keep their Boulevard shop buzzing while opening another in the West End. Odd that Bill’s goes belly-up because of the bad economy while B&N expands. BTW, there is no shortage of any restaurants of any types in Richmond.
  • Richmond has had special problems with unemployment but that had nothing to do Obama. Maybe Ms. Elliott doesn’t know this but mass retailer Circuit City went  out of business in 2009. The reason: bad management that had nothing to do with Obama. All the sharp tacks at Circuit City ended up at spinoff CarMax. The dullards stayed on, killing the company. Quimonda went away because of global chip issues. LandAmerica kerflopped because the real estate finance market went bad during the term of George W. Bush. Since Obama has come in office, Richmond’s unemployment rate has steadily improved.

You have to ask yourself why Romney has had such serious trouble with truthful campaign statements. The Jeep thing was a doozey. As you know, Jeep was saved by the Italians who have rebuilt the brand. Romney claimed they were moving Jeep production to China. What they may do is move SOME new Jeep production to China to make Jeeps to be sold in that market. Hot flash for Mitt — Toyota, Honda and Mercedes all make cars in the U.S. for sale in the U.S. market. Mr. Bain Capital ought to know that.

As for Bill’s Barbecue, all I can say is good riddance. Richmonders are always pulling out their hankies for some sentimental memory that may never have been as great as they remember. As for barbecue itself, there were and are much better places for  it.

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  1. DJRippert Avatar

    The truth squad should check it’s facts.

    “Since Obama has come in office, Richmond’s unemployment rate has steadily improved.”.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    If you select Richmond as a tab under “cities and towns” under Virginia you’ll see that the unemployment rate in Richmond was 8.1% in April, 2012 and is 9.1% today.

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    In fact, if you move your cursor over the graph line you’ll see that unemployment was 8.4% in January, 2009 when Obama took office and steadily rose during his presidency. In fact, over the almost four years he has been president, the unemployment rate in Richmond has only been lower than it was on Obama’s inauguration day for three months.

  4. DJRippert Avatar

    Even Peter’s home county of Chesterfield has seen the unemployment rate rise almost constantly from Jan, 2009 to July, 2010 when it did turn down to end up almost exactly where it started under Obama’s reign.

  5. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    THis says Richmond at 6.1 percent for this Sept.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Hmmmmm …..

      Google data vs The Department of Numbers

      I am not sure which is right although having the city of Richmond’s unemployment rate well below the national unemployment rate seems suspicious.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        We may be back in Risse-land, comparing the Richmond MSA to the City of Richmond.

        However, even the MSA has not seen a steady drop in unemployment according to the Department of Numbers website:

        “The number of people unemployed in Richmond peaked in January 2010 at 54,422. There are now 11,603 fewer people unemployed in the metropolitan area. From a recent trough of 42,170 in May 2012, the number of unemployed has now grown by 649.”.

  6. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    We’re getting silly here. The MSA is a better benchmark since Bill’s BBQ had restaurants in the MSA, not just in the city of Richmond.

    A few other things. Circuit City led to a few thousand jobs gone and it had nothing to do with the Recession, Bush or Obama. It was a self-inflicted wound. A lot of these showed up in 2009 when it was over.

    Plenty of restaurants go out of business for one reason or another. Richmond had another chain, Aunt Sarah’s, and I think they have very few left because they can’t compete with Cracker Barrel in the down-hime, no cocktails market..

    Marriott used to have Hot Shoppes in DC you’d take a date there for soft drinks and onion rings) but it no longer exists, either.

    I believe it is incredibly disingenuous for Romney and the head of Bill’s BBQ to blame Obama for the chain’s demise. Believe me, it was utterly crappy. Richmond actually has become a lot more sophisticated in its culinary tastes over the years and the old Southern standbys face some tough competition and have gone through new iterations themselves.

    People, especially newcomers, just won’t put up with shoe leather pulled pork and cole slaw that is turning blue because that’s what their grandpappies did.

    We can wave unemloyment figures at each other all day.

    1. DJRippert Avatar


      People who declare themselves “The Truth Squad” need to watch the details!

      I don’t think I ever ate at Bill’s. It might be terrible. However, it did stay in business since 1930 I guess.

      There is a place outside Richmond just off I95. I forget the name but I eat there every time I drive down to North Carolina to go fishing. It must be north of the city since I take I295 around the city and never quite touch the actual City of Richmond.

      One of my fishing buddies knows the place. It’s right off an I95 exit on the west side of the highway.

      I’ll get the name.

      Hopefully, it isn’t Bill’s.

  7. I don’t often side with Peter — and I’m certainly no defender of Obama’s economic policies — but I think it was a cheap shot for the Romney video to blame the demise of Bill’s Barbecue on Obama’s economic policies. The video doesn’t mention a single instance of a regulation or policy that harmed Bill’s. I share Peter’s view that Bill’s has been on the downward slide for some time. And he’s correct to say that other barbecue joints are prospering.

    Now, if only Peter would take the same umbrage at the cheap shots that Obama’s ads take. They are equally divorced from reality, if not more so.

    Political ads in general make me want to puke. Almost every one, even the conservative ones, do violence to the truth.

  8. Sounds like Don has the facts on Richmond regional unemployment. The big question is, who do we blame — Obama, the Richmond Clown Show or the Descendants of Pocahontas?

  9. I ate at “Bills” a few times and was not impressed at all. The place was not particularly clean, the restrooms were awful and the food was not something to write home about.

    they deserved to go bankrupt.

    re: who do we blame question for DJ – yes indeed..

    how about it DJ – Obama or the Clown Show?

    Romney – the man who oozes let-them-eat-cake capitalism…
    doesn’t care if Bills deserved to be replaced by better competitors, just if he can use it as a narrative.

    There HAS been a crapload of unemployment since Obama became President.

    Strangely enough it happened right after he took office – like he shut off a spigot , eh?

    I mean.. all the man had to do was take the oath of office and unemployment became the worst ever.


    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Even I can’t blame the Clown Show for the unemployment level.

      I blame a succession of bad decisions by presidents and (more importantly) Congresses starting with Reagan and going through Obama.

      However, it was neither the Bush Tax Cuts nor the two wars that caused the explosion in the deficit – it was the recession and lack of a recovery.

      Take a look at this graph:

      Bush inherited the Clinton “dot bomb” recession with all the requisite lack of regulation and enforcement around Worldcom, etc.

      You can see the widening gap between receipts and expenditures.

      But then a funny thing happened after the Bush Tax cuts and two wars:

      The gap narrowed. In fact, it almost closed.

      Then came the so-called Great Recession. And the financial bail outs. And the auto bail outs. And the stimuli. And the QE-infinity program.

      My opinion? Obama took a bad recession and made it worse. However, he inherited the bad recession.

      The REAL question is why all recent US recessions have exhibited such shallow recoveries. The US economy has had recessions forever. But the economy used to rebound. Now, we have a recession and just go flat.


  10. reed fawell Avatar
    reed fawell

    “But then a funny thing happened after the Bush Tax cuts and two wars:
    The gap narrowed. In fact, it almost closed.”

    Excellent Point!!! Why does nobody remember. Do good, and never get credit. But Mess up then your Toast! Unless, of course, you’re Obama.

  11. re: the gap narrowed… and “do good and never get credit”.

    the problem is with tax cuts – there is no Plan B if the gap does not close much less if it starts to expand as it did do and then the economy goes south.

    you’re painted yourself into a fiscal corner.

    what do you do AFTER you have tax cuts, and the deficit starts to grow and the economy tanks?

    what should the POTUS do ?

    The GOP said we have a spending problem even though it’s the spending they approved originally so the sequester is proposed and they are opposed to “devastating” cuts in spending.

    so which is it? do we have a spending problem or not?

  12. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Curious that a number of other blogs have jumped in on the inanity of the Romney Bill’s Barbecue ad.

    They have noted that Richmond has grown into being a highly competitive restaurant market including barbecue. I mentioned Buzz and Ned’s expansion but there are others, too.

    One blog noted that some time ago, Bill’s Barbecue executives gave reasons for their failures that didn’t include Obama. They were in bankruptcy and couldn’t afford to renovate their facilities which were stuck in the 1930s.

    I noted health issues. Here’s more on that point:

    So, it is curious that when some capitalists have problems with the free market, they don’t blame themselves but Obama.

  13. They closed 5 stores and left 3 open, but didn’t lay off any employees. They had many 10, 15 and 20 year employees. Labor costs killed Bill’s Barbecue.

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