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Hays: “We’ve come full circle.” Photo by Ryan Burger

Our city’s craft barbecue explosion is running out of room on the ground floor. Derek Allan’s, Flores, Heim, Hurtado, Panther City, Joe Riscky’s, and a few others have all staked their claim as standouts of the first wave. One of the more ballyhooed entries into the scene is Dayne’s Craft Barbecue, which has been wowing the meat-loving masses since its first pop-up at Lola’s Saloon about a year ago. 

Dayne’s quickly became the darling of the craft ’cue scene, and co-owners Ashley Nicole Hays and Dayne Weaver made big news by announcing on social media their plans to slide into some hot real estate on West Berry Street – a significant power play for an operation that started in the married couple’s front yard. After a falling-out with the owner of the property on Berry, the couple is now ready to move on. 

Starting on Sat, Aug 24, Hays and Weaver will be serving their post oak- and pecan-smoked prime meats at Lola’s Saloon, in the space between the Trailer Park and Lola’s proper. Dayne’s will be open on Saturdays only from noon until the food is gone, and they will still be able to handle catering gigs. Lola’s will also be kicking off a weekly afternoon concert series in conjunction with the launch. There’s no word yet on who is scheduled to play. 

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Hays and Weaver said that serving out of Lola’s was always Plan A. When Dayne’s was ready to pursue the space, he said, there was already a tenant in place, Arcadia Parish Crawfish. 

“Today, looking back on the past few months, it feels like we’re back on course,” Hayes said. “We’ve come full-circle. We’ve just gained insight and experience.”

Hays and Weaver said that in March they were approached by developer Trey Neville about moving into the West Berry Street building recently occupied by Americado. Dayne’s hosted a few pop-ups in that cavernous space, which were met with wide acclaim, drawing crowds of up to 250 people over a two-hour span. 

Weaver said Dayne’s and Neville reached “some kind of loose terms we had agreed on, and we were going to hash out the details later. In the meantime, [Neville] said, ‘Let’s go ahead and do some pop-ups there to create some buzz.’ “

As the finer points of their potential partnership with Neville became clearer, the couple said they became less comfortable with the relationship. 

One major point of contention, Weaver said, was their timeframe for opening. 

“He wanted to be open by July 1,” Weaver said. “There’s no way we could have gotten all of those renovations done, come up with a business plan, built a crew, and done the build-out in that timeframe. We always thought it was odd that there was such a rush. We were thinking we’d open in the fall.”

Their breaking point, the couple said, was that Neville wanted control of the operations of the restaurant, including adding a full bar and a late-night bar menu. Hays and Weaver said they were also concerned that they would have eventually had to compromise the quality of the food based on cost.

“He was planning on being an investor, putting up the capital for the build-out, all the up-front costs, all the initial alcohol cost, everything like that,” Weaver said. “There wasn’t a set number on what that would be. He wanted a certain percentage [of ownership], and it ended up being a percentage that we weren’t comfortable with.”

Neville said the couple didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, and that’s why the relationship dissolved. 

 “I basically gave them a place to work out of, spent substantial dollars cleaning up the place, and investing to put them in a position to open, and the other side of the equation wasn’t met,” he said. “We asked for a detailed business plan with accurate projections and food costs, budgets, payroll, and all of that stuff, and we never got the level of detail that we wanted to see. They’re at a point in their life, in my opinion, where they’re just not ready to take on the restaurant business.”

Hays and Weaver said they presented Neville with a detailed business plan, and he would never answer questions about where money was coming from or the amount he was willing to invest.

Neville said his company, Graham LTD, is planning to develop that corner of Berry Street similar to the 8th Avenue area, where Wabi House and Super Chix sit. The plans include a pool, a micro-hotel, a stage, and a mini-amphitheater, he said. The company hopes to break ground by January. 

Hays and Weaver said Dayne’s is now back on track pursuing their most important goal: making the best barbecue in Texas. Weaver said he appreciated the opportunity Neville gave him and that he and his wife learned from the experience. Hays said she’s relieved and excited to be at Lola’s – and to put the past several months behind her. 

“I feel like this is the more natural flow of things,” she said. “It sucks that we’re not in the place we promised people, but for me personally, I feel so much better.” 

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