Floyd "J.R." Rothenberger made the agonizing decision to close two of his three J.R.'s Texas Bar-B-Que restaurants over the weekend, but he vowed Monday to "fight on until I don't have any more breath."
With his business facing debt, declining revenue and rising costs amid what he calls a sluggish economy, Rothenberger on Saturday pulled the plug on his restaurants at 3445 El Camino Ave., and 232 Jibboom St. (near Interstate 5 and Richards Boulevard).
The J.R.'s Texas Bar-B-Que at 180 Otto Circle the original J.R.'s restaurant that opened 25 years ago featuring mesquite-smoked, Texas-style barbecue remains open.
Ominously, that restaurant is near the Campbell Soup Co. plant scheduled to fade to black this summer after gradually shedding 700 blue-collar jobs.
Even so, a feisty Rothenberger said Monday that he was determined to stay in the game.
"I'm going to fight it out. I'm going to go down swinging," he said. "I was down $1 million in 1982 and I eventually paid everybody back. I still can't figure out what the word 'quit' means.
"I'm going to be the best I can be. I want the community to know that I don't want to go anywhere."
And besides, Rothenberger added with a chuckle, "I can't go anywhere because my brisket is too good."
The financial alarm bells went off in early January, when local TV stations reported that Rothenberger's three restaurants would likely close within days.
At that time, Rothenberger complained that annual sales were down about 50 percent from a previous peak of around $1.1 million.
The news reports prompted a flood of customers to the Otto Circle restaurant, and Rothenberger said he received a $20,000 personal loan "from a friend."
For a while, that was enough to keep orders of smoked brisket, pork and beef ribs, pork shoulder, chicken, turkey and hot links on the tables.
While Rothenberger said he was touched by the customer response, he said it tailed off after about two weeks. His fiscal situation had not improved enough to enable him to carry on with three establishments.
"So, I've come back to Otto Circle," he said. "I just got $8,000 in catering, so maybe that's a sign."
The closing of two J.R.'s restaurants resulted in the loss of seven jobs. Five people remain to staff the J.R.'s restaurant at Otto Circle.
Rothenberger added that while the city of Sacramento is concentrating on keeping the Kings, he believes it's not paying enough attention to keeping small businesses.
Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.