Dining With Denise Neil

Tis the season for restaurant closings: Here’s another that’ll go before Christmas

The last time I checked in with Willie Lusk, it was March, and he was desperately trying to figure out a way to save his Johnny B’s burger restaurant at 240 N. Main in Haysville.

He’d tried adding breakfast, serving Mexican food, offering coupons. Nothing was working, though, and he was contemplating changing the concept. He even put out a suggestion box to ask customers for ideas.

Now, nine months later, Lusk has decided to close the doors at Johnny B’s. He told his customers through a Facebook post that his last day in business will be Dec. 23.

“I had hoped that we would be around for much longer of course, but I wouldn't take any of it back,” he wrote.

Lusk said in his post that he’d almost had the electricity turned off in the restaurant in November, which woke him up to the fact that his business was not making it financially.

“It was simply an eye opener and forced me to make a decision I have been long avoiding,” he wrote. “I have been robbing Peter to pay Paul for over a year now. Every day is a struggle just to keep product in here. Let alone, the payroll, the taxes, utilities and rent. As much as I don't want to face the facts, the fact is, we are going to be closed one way or another.”

Lusk asked his customers to come by before the his closing date and help him go out strong, saying, “Our competitors will still be there after the 23rd, lol.”

He said he’s committed to the lease on the building through next September, and he had considered the possibility of doing something different in it. But it was too soon to speculate, he said, adding he didn’t feel very optimistic.

“Our main focus right now is to get caught up on everything and hopefully go out on top,” he said.

Lusk, who grew up in Haysville, first bought Johnny B’s from the original owner in 2007. After going through a divorce in 2011, he had to close it. But when he married his current wife, Amanda, he decided he missed the restaurant and reopened in 2014, serving fresh-made burgers and hand-cut fries.

If he tries another restaurant, he said, it would have to be something completely different from Johnny B’s.

“I have ran Johnny B's now twice for three years each time with the same result,” he wrote. “So the only thing I know for certain is the Johnny B's concept does not work here or I am not the right person to do it.”

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