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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the owner of the city’s oldest barbecue restaurant to sell his business.

Dan Brown, owner of Leonard’s Pit Barbecue in Fox Meadows says business at the eatery is down nearly 70% from a year ago and he can no longer afford to keep it going.

Pictures courtesy of Leonard’s Pit Barbecue

“I wasn’t an extremely wealthy person. What I had was the business and the sale coming and you know, the first three or four months when it first started about 50% of my total backup cash and assets were completely gone, probably never to return,” said Brown.

Brown said his buffet and catering business made up nearly 75% of his sales and with all the restrictions he doesn’t see either coming back anytime soon.

“At some point, it’s got to be somebody owning this and, hopefully, me working for them. Somebody that has some cash to weather however long this storm is going to last,” said Brown.

Leonard’s Pit Barbecue opened its doors in 1922 at Bellevue and McLemore. On their website, the restaurant boasts Elvis Presley was once a regular. Brown began working there in 1962, while he was in high school, to help support his family.

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“The first thing I did every day when I came to work was cut 150 pounds of onions. One hundred pounds for onion rings and 50 pounds for hamburgers and then I just did all the odd jobs around the kitchen. I was there about two years before they even thought about teaching me how to make a barbecue sandwich,” laughed Brown.

Brown bought the restaurant in 1993 when it was at a second location on Fox Plaza Drive and never looked back.

“It’s the only thing I’ve done my entire life. You ask anybody that owns or has worked at a restaurant their whole life and it just gets in your blood,” said Brown.

Brown said Thursday was a good day but still far below his average daily sales pre-pandemic.

He thinks he can probably operate his restaurant for about six more months and hopes he can find someone who will love the barbecue business as much as he does.

“Maybe things will get better and everybody will will want to buy,” said Dan.

Brown is selling the restaurant and the building.

For more on Leonard’s Pit Barbecue and their hours of operation click here.