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BI BBQ charts new course, Winslow location to close this weekend

In its six years on Winslow Way, BI BBQ has become the Bainbridge Island source for hometown barbecue.

But those six years will come to an end this weekend when BI BBQ closes its doors and begins a new era for the business.

"Bottom line is that we did not make this decision easily," said Greg Epstein, owner of BI BBQ. "But we didn't see a future in this particular location."

BI BBQ will attempt to empty its kitchen on Friday, March 15 in order to close up shop.

Fans of the restaurant need not fear, however. The island's source for ribs, brisket, salmon and more will continue to tantalize taste buds — just not from downtown.

"We've been approved for a commercial kitchen here on the island," Epstein said. "For right now, it's going to be catering, and we'll at the farmers market."

In fact, in addition to the catering service, Epstein plans to expand their farmers market stand to other markets in the area.

The new era of BI BBQ will build off its success at the Winslow Way location.

"Last year was our best year ever, that's why people ask why we are doing this," Epstein said. "It boiled down to the roof leaking on our customers. It's embarrassing."

The building that houses BI BBQ is one of the island's oldest, and Epstein said it's showing its age. While he enjoyed operating in the historic house, Epstein said it's time to move on.

The one point that Epstein firmly stresses is that BI BBQ is not going away.

"We are not closing the business," he said. "The business has never been healthier or more successful."

So successful, that there is also a third option on the table that Epstein is flirting with: delivery.

Epstein said that it's still too early to tell if barbecue delivery will return to Bainbridge Island but it's yet another avenue he wants to pursue.

"It's an option. That's how we started our business. It was delivery," he said. "Now we have a mountain of clientele, and there isn't day that goes by that people don't request our delivery service."

Epstein also wants to continue traditions such as the annual Thanksgiving barbecue buffet that has grown popular in recent years.

In the meantime, however, Epstein is planning for the final week of BI BBQ on Winslow Way. The restaurant will end its time at its downtown location with a cookout to end all cookouts — at Winslow's BI BBQ at least.

"We're still cooking. We are planning to have a party on Friday," Epstein said. "If we sell out, we will turn the lights out. If we have enough for the weekend we will cook through the weekend."

But once the kitchen runs out, that's it for BI BBQ.

BI BBQ has come a long way from its beginnings in 2007 when Epstein took his operation from a commercial kitchen to its current location on Winslow Way.

And Epstein has traveled even longer. After graduating from Bainbridge High School in 1987, he charted a course through culinary school and continued on through various hotels and restaurants in Seattle, and even cooked for stint in Los Angeles.

His career took him through sous chef and executive chef positions. He became the youngest executive chef in Seattle, at 24 years old, when he took on a position at Gregory'’s Bar & Grill in SeaTac.

But Epstein eventually found his way back to Bainbridge Island, bringing his family and his skills with him.

Now it's time for another change.

The restaurant's website, www.biBBQ.com, and its Facebook page will provide updates on the business as it transitions into its next phase.

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