News and notes from around town:
• Indeed the rumors of Vermont Street BBQ making a comeback are true. Chris Brann, the former general manager for the popular restaurant, told me that he plans to sign a lease for a new location within a week. And no, it won’t be moving back to Vermont Street.
“We’ll definitely be on Mass,” said Brann, who said he didn’t yet want to reveal the exact location until he gets a deal signed.
Brann says he did lots of cooking at the former Vermont Street BBQ — which closed in September 2009 after about seven years in business. That means he’s not planning on making any major changes to the food or menu.
“I’ve got all those old recipes in my head,” Brann said. “It really has become a passion for me. People kept telling me how much they liked our barbecue, so I want to bring it back.”
Brann said he hopes to have the restaurant open by late March in time for a certain basketball tournament.
Vermont Street BBQ got started in 2002 in the small space at 714 Vt., but then moved to 728 Mass. in 2004 in what used to be home to another downtown icon, the Paradise Cafe. No, no rumors about the Paradise making a comeback.
• The barbecue scene in Lawrence certainly will get more crowded. As Town Talk previously reported, Famous Dave’s BBQ will open this spring in the former Hereford House location at Sixth and Wakarusa. But one BBQ rumor that is not true is that Biggs BBQ plans to move into the former Old Chicago location near 23rd and Iowa streets. Biggs owner Doug Holiday told me he’s happy right where he’s at, which is 2429 Iowa Street in the shopping center that includes Kief’s Audio Video.
Instead, I’m hearing a rumor that the national chain Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery plans to open in that spot. I’ll work to get some confirmation of that in the near future. According to the company’s Web site, the restaurant offers pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and "brewery classics" such as fish and chips, jambalaya, Mahi tacos, classic mac ‘n chicken, Guadalajara enchiladas, and several cuts of steak. All that is in addition to their beers, which, it appears, are brewed on site.
According to the website, the company doesn’t yet have a location in Kansas or Missouri, but does have several in the Denver area.
• Judy Billings is stepping down from her longtime role as director of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, but she’s not stepping far. Billings is giving up the director’s title to focus more time on her duties as president and CEO of Destination Management Inc. DMI is the umbrella organization for both the convention and visitors bureau and the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, which will start becoming much more visible in the coming month.
Susan Henderson, who has been the CVB’s marketing director since 2001, will take over as the director. Henderson is a lifetime Lawrence resident and has her degree in journalism from Kansas University. The CVB, of course, is responsible for marketing the community as a destination for tourists, events, conventions and sporting activities.