After 42 Years, Popular Johnston County Restaurant Closing

SMITHFIELD – After more than 4 decades, a popular barbecue and seafood restaurant is closing this week.  Holt Lake Bar-B-Que & Seafood on Highway 301 South will cease operations this Saturday, September 18th.  

Owner Terry Barefoot said it was a tough decision to make.  The Barefoot family opened Holt Lake Bar-B-Que on June 4, 1979. Known for its fried chicken, barbecue and seafood menu, it has served tens of thousands of people over the past 42 years. 

Mr. Barefoot said the building is under contract to be sold. He is unsure what the new owner plans to do with the property.  “The new owner has not disclosed his plan. It will be down for a little while. I’m not sure what the new owner plans to do.”  The name of the buyer has not been announced.

Barefoot said several reasons played into his decision. “I turned 67 two weeks ago. I don’t have anybody in my family that wants to take it on. I don’t have anybody to leave it to and take it on. The restaurant business is a hard business, especially right now with the virus and pandemic. The last year, year and a half, have been tough, and it will be tough for a while longer.”   

“Considering not having anyone to leave it to, my age, and not having enough help. I am short employees and try to scramble everyday to try and make sure all the positions have been covered. I haven’t had an application in four months. It’s harder and harder to get help.  The (buyer) came along at the right time.”

“It was a hard decision to make because I have been there so long,” Mr. Barefoot said Monday. “I have met people when they were one- and two-years old that use to eat with their mom and dad. Now they are 40 years-old and they bring their kids out to eat. I have met a lot of people.”

Some of those people included famous celebrities like Whitey Ford, Terry Bradshaw, Gregg Allman with the Gregg Allman Band, and Lou Diamond Phillips.

Two fires could not keep the business closed for long.  On July 8, 1981 a fire, later ruled arson, destroyed the restaurant. It was rebuilt and reopened just two months later, September 8, 1981.  A second fire gutted the eatery on April 18, 2010. It reopened on December 7, 2010. 

Terry told his staff Saturday about the decision to close.  “It was hard to tell the employees. I have employees who have been with me 30 years. It was a hard decision to make. It is bittersweet. You hate to give it up. It’s hard to give it up, but I know I can’t be there forever.” 

Terry said he has contacted everyone who has booked a catering. All caterings, including weddings, booked through December 2021 will be honored.   

After “retiring” from the restaurant business, Terry says he won’t be retiring from work. But it will give him more time with his family.

I’ve got five grandchildren. They will keep me busy. I am a contract grower and still own a farm. I have about 100 acres of cropland I farm and look after 3,000 hogs as a contract grower, plus about 30 cows. I try to do all this myself in the spare time from the restaurant. I have a lot to keep me busy. My health is pretty good. It’s time to leave while you’re doing good and feeling good and spend time with the family a little bit more.”

As for the final week of business at Holt Lake Bar-B-Que Terry said, “It’s going to be hard.”  But he looks forward to seeing as many people as he can right up until the last customer is served Saturday night.

“I love them all. I wish everybody the best. They have all been good to me. It is going to be hard to leave. I wish everybody well. Everything has to come to an end but if you look at the big picture everything will be okay.”


  1. Will certainly be missed. Good memories of wonderful lunches there when family came to town. Bless you for what you’ve given the community.

  2. Aw! My graduation dinner was held here, as well as multiple family birthdays. I loved taking my boyfriend here for the first time earlier this year. The food, tea, and atmosphere was always great. Enjoy retirement! Wishing you the rest of your life to have much less stress.

  3. Hate to see you closing. My family comes up from Florida and goes there for reunions. Itā€™s going to be missed a lot.

  4. I was one of the kids that eat there and now at almost 40 take my kids there. Love this place and its definitely a Landmark in Smithfield that will be missed.

  5. So many memories as I have eaten there since 1980. I don’t think I have ever cried over a restaurant closing, this is a first.

  6. Please leave behind a big pot of stringbeans for my granddaughter & a pork chop dinner for me. I will truly miss going there. My family who visits from Maryland & stocks up on BBQ to take back for family & friends are truly saddened! May God bless you and your family.

  7. Hi Terry, my name is Brenda Joseph a lady who is hard of hearing. I was there today. I talked to you about this Friday with 4 friends to eat lunch. I hate to see you and the restaurant go. . I was there since 1979. A lot of memories I will never forget. The best restaurant I’ve ever been to. You will be missed. I wish you the best of luck in your retirement. God bless you and your family.

  8. I could scream !! Itā€™s the only good bbq in Johnston co. And so convenient to just drive through. So sad u will surely be missed
    But we understand

  9. My name James Strickland CEO United States headquarters our company like buy property we planning keep it like it is I love this place

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