Fans of Uncle Billy’s Barbecue were saddened to hear that Jonny St. Laurent’s pop-up restaurant at 539 Deering Ave. in the Woodfords neighborhood had abruptly closed without explanation a couple of weeks ago. That left open a big, fat question: What about the planned Uncle Billy’s restaurant on Cumberland Avenue that’s been undergoing renovations for the past year? Will it ever open?

Apparently not – at least not with St. Laurent in the kitchen.

St. Laurent has been out of town the past few weeks, cooking for guests at a fishing camp on the Quebec border – and doing a little fishing himself as time permitted. Cell phones don’t work there, but I did manage to get a message to him and he promised to fill me in when he returned. He told me in an email that his investors – whom he declined to identify – had suddenly pulled out of the Deering Avenue restaurant, and the Cumberland Avenue location “appears to be abandoned as well.”

“Should that space open as a restaurant, however, be assured that neither my name nor my brand nor family will be involved in it after the duress of these last 15 months, since licensure with the City of Portland first happened,” St. Laurent wrote.

St. Laurent did enjoy one part of his almost-comeback, saying “it was heartening to be so well received by the community after all that time.” The original Uncle Billy’s opened in 1989 on Ocean Street in South Portland, and closed in 1995. Many former Uncle Billy’s customers made their way to the neighborhood pop-up on Deering Avenue over the past few months for a plate of nostalgia.

“The patrons of yesteryear came back with their new children and grandchildren, even, and once again drew pigs – and chickens this time – on napkins and played the iconic old jukebox for what turned out to be probably the last time,” St. Laurent wrote. “The joint rocked, despite the neverending roadwork and street closures during the entire time we were open.”

RIP, Uncle Billy’s.

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