Bootlegger Grill in Longview closes; owner cites 'oversaturation'
Nov. 7, 2017 at 4:06 p.m.
Updated Nov. 7, 2017 at 4:19 p.m.
Bootlegger Grill in Longview ended four years in business Saturday with owner Chris Cline saying he closed it after trying for months to sell the restaurant/sports bar.
"The problem is there is an oversaturation of restaurants in the Longview market," Cline said Tuesday. "Nobody wanted to purchase a restaurant."
Without mentioning the competition by name, Cline said the chains and franchises that have opened have been "pushing out the independent restaurants. I have been hemorrhaging (sales) for a long time. It's a tough business to be in."
Toward the end, Bootlegger was not as busy as when he opened it in September 2013 in the former McCann Street Bar and Grill at 1217 McCann Road, according to Cline.
But despite the slowdown, Cline said, "Our food quality stayed up as it should be. We did not sacrifice any of that even though we were having a downturn."
He cited accolades the restaurant received on Facebook. It also garnered a Best of East Texas Award from the News-Journal in 2015.
Cline said he had 13 employees for a restaurant that had a seating capacity of 192.
"Most of them were with me from day one," he said. "I expect you will see them at other (restaurant) establishments around town."
The closure of The Bootlegger Grill came as a surprise to employees next door at Patterson Truck Stop dealership.
"What for?" Andrew Proffer, who works in the services department, asked rhetorically. "That place was packed all the time, every night."
Proffer said he placed to-go orders at Bootlegger a few times in the three to four months he has worked at Patterson.
Patterson sales consultant Preston Watkins said he has ordered food to go "very regularly" from Bootlegger in the 10 months he has been on the job.
"I'm sure something else will pop up" in Bootlegger's place, Watkins said.
Cline said he will miss is loyal customers, and thanked them for supporting him.
"I'm going to miss the interaction with the customers," he said. "I got to meet all kinds of people and people's kids. It's really cool when you served somebody food and you know you created it. It was your recipe."
Cline said he is not sure what his plans will be.
"I am looking for a job, obviously," Cline said. "I don't think I will get back into the restaurant business."
He said he formerly worked for 13 years with General Dynamics in Kilgore and as information technology director at HeartsWay Hospice for two years before opening The Bootlegger Grill.