BBQ Restaurant Owner Hopes for Fresh Start at Troubled Location

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  A Douglas Avenue business has moved into 508 Indianola Road--a location with a history of violence. The new owner hopes her restaurant will bring a fresh start for both herself and the neighborhood.

Vernice Kemp owns Phat Daddyz BBQ Sports Grill while her husband runs the kitchen.

“He always wanted to come back to the south side, to bring a different atmosphere to the south side, to show them that the south side is a place to be,” said Kemp.

After a four-year stint as a food truck and recently a permanent location on Douglas, they were able to move back to the area.

“We have a lot of following that is coming from Douglas to come over here with us, so we have about 2,500 people following us on Facebook and Instagram,” said Kemp.

But a cloud of sorts hangs over their new location; previous occupants like The 508 Club and the W Ultra Lounge were notorious for violence. W Ultra Lounge had shootings in March and June of 2016, and The 508 Club was the scene of a homicide in January of this year.

Kemp says she and her husband are determined to leave the past in the past.

“We’re trying to make this family-oriented for the businesses around here and for the people around here. We’re not trying to have no after hours or no club scene or anything like that, we’re strictly a restaurant,” said Kemp.

Kemp attributes the violence to what the building used to be, not where it is.

“Not the location, just the type of place that it was, the people that they let come in. Even after nine o'clock it's just 30 and up, so it's just going to be a really, really nice place to be," she said.

With normal business hours of 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. during the week and 11 a.m. - 2 a.m. on weekends, Kemp hopes the new joint that serves chicken, ribs, and catfish will have a bright future.

“I’m kinda nervous, but it’s real exciting to see what happens and hopefully that everything will go well for us,” she said.

One of the last hurdles to their opening was passed on Monday, when the city council unanimously agreed to transfer the business' liquor license from the Douglas location to the new space on Indianola Road.

Kemp hopes to open on Tuesday but says it could be later in the week.