Vermont Street BBQ closing in four days

Vermont Street BBQ is closing Sunday, as the restaurant’s owner prepares to close a deal for a new business to occupy its downtown location.

Shad Woodworth, who co-founded the restaurant in 2002, confirmed Wednesday that he was getting out of the barbecue business. He plans to take a year off before attending graduate school, then pursue other business opportunities.

“The restaurant is still viable,” said Woodworth, who noted that he was retaining the business’ name, smokers, computer system and related assets. “… I’m ready to move on and try something different.”

Woodworth, who is lead owner of a group that leases the two-story building, declined to discuss what business would be moving in. Two businesses upstairs — Hookah House and Cafe Beautiful — will remain, with their leases intact, he said.

Vermont Street BBQ’s nearly 30 employees, half of them full-timers, learned of the pending closure Tuesday night. Employees will receive one week of severance pay.

Vermont Street BBQ opened in August 2002, in a small storefront at 714 Vt. that had been home to Mojo’s. The BBQ joint then relocated in May 2004, retaining the Vermont Street name while moving into the former home of Paradise Cafe on Massachusetts Street.

Woodworth hopes to sell the restaurant’s naming rights, smokers and other items to someone who wants to keep the signature chicken wings and other favorites smoking somewhere in Lawrence. Many of the restaurant’s other assets — those not directly related to a barbecue operation — will remain, having been purchased by the incoming business.

“It’s like with anything that’s important to you,” he said. “I’ll definitely miss the employees the most, the relationships with that. I’ll miss the customers. A lot of regular customers will be disappointed. I’m extremely thankful for all the customers we’ve had.”