Late last month, owners David Calkins and Lee Howard decided to scrap the burger concept in Rockville and transform it into the fourth outlet of their small Urban Bar-B-Que chain. It was a matter of economics.
“It’s too big of a space for a burger joint,” Calkins said during a phone chat this afternoon. “We just came out and said, ‘We weren’t making enough money to pay the bills.’”
With several years left on their lease, Calkins and Howard thought it best to cut their loses and rebrand the space as Urban Bar-B-Que. The owners brought over their most reliable smoker — the large Southern Pride unit from their Sandy Spring store — to make sure they had a machine that they were familiar with at the new location. They also built a 30-foot bar stocked with liquor, beer and wine. Sales have already increased, Calkins says.
The menu at the latest store is virtually identical to the other Urban Bar-B-Que outlets, although the new spot, like the Sandy Spring location, serves crab cakes and a couple of appetizers not found in the other Urban joints.
And what about all the Navy memorabilia at the former Urban Burger, those photos and flags and models that paid homage to Calkins’ father, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Navy? Is it all still there?
“We still have Navy stuff up there, mixed with what we like to call redneck chic,” Calkins says.
The fourth store won’t even be their last. Calkins notes that a fifth location, a franchisee, is scheduled to open in about a month in the Ashburn Village Center.
“We’ll finally be crossing the bridge,” Calkins says.