- Julia LeFort
“Real BBQ and More,” located at 5863 Fairfield Avenue in Shreveport, is a locally owned restaurant operated by the Clay family and 13 employees. Unfortunately for this family, the city of Shreveport has been blocking the drives to their restaurant for almost three weeks in order to reroute a sewer main, with little warning and vague promise of their work being completed within another month. “Road Closed” signs with no “Local Traffic” or “Detour” signs to minimize confusion have barricaded their roads and made it seem impossible for customers to enter the parking lot. Although there is an alternate route that would allow anyone into the lot, these “Road Closed” signs leave drivers feeling uncomfortable turning down the correct roads. Owner Harvey Clay spoke to RSHV News 1 about the problems this has caused him and his restaurant, as well as the lack of concern he has been shown by the city despite his own efforts to make a meaningful change.
Harvey Clay spoke at the Shreveport City Council meeting on June 11th. He seemed desperate for help as he explained to the city council that although he was forewarned nearly a year ago some work may be done beneath his building, he was only given one day of real notice that his business would be disrupted. Clay has kept Real BBQ open throughout the process, but his sales have decreased by 60%. He says he receives anywhere from 10-15 calls per day from potential customers asking if they are open. Additionally, Clay cited two times food delivery trucks had to call him multiple times, unsure if they could reach him. The one drive that is open was even blocked one day; when Clay confronted the driver, he was told that he could “let him know each time someone was coming and he would move it.”
Harvey Clay has made it clear that he does not want to be the angry man who yells at his city council members, but he is certain that if he was operating a bigger or more lucrative chain restaurant, he would not be receiving the same treatment. Clay claims he was told by the city engineer that the caved-in sewer line beneath his building has been known about for years, and they’ve been fighting the effects since the restaurant opened, assuming it was an internal problem. In his fight for his restaurant, Clay has gone from “begging for help to completely pissed off,” and still believes that the city’s “heart hasn’t changed for (them) at all because of (their) size.”
Luckily, the citizens of Shreveport care about Real BBQ and the family that runs it. On Saturday June 15th, the restaurant was hit by a “cash mob,” and had huge crowds show at their doors for BBQ and to show their support. This gesture deeply moved Clay and his family and gave them encouragement to keep fighting for the restaurant that has become their living. They were left feeling “loved by the public, but not by the public departments,” and can only describe what they’ve experienced as “abuse.”
Since appearing at the city council meeting, the city has moved the signs in both the northbound and southbound mains toward the shoulders of the road, as well as added bright lights for safety and a sign welcoming local traffic. While these changes will hopefully minimize the problems Real BBQ has been experiencing, the initial damage caused to their sales has already been done. The city of Shreveport dealt with the Clay family with no regard or appreciation for their contribution to the community, and the handicap to their business will surely continue to have a negative impact until it is completely eliminated.