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December 30, 2012 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Once a Dallas restaurateur, Clyde Biggins has recently been released after 17 years in prison for drug offences. Unable to obtain a food licence, he has taken to giving away his legendary barbecued ribs, brisket and sausage from a truck on his front lawn, in return for donations. "No gauges, thermometers or gimmicks" and seasoned with just salt, pepper and chili powder. Texas BBQ Posse Approved. Find him if you can.
posted by criticalbill (40 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
To cut a long story short, because of his federal conviction, Clyde is unable to secure the food licences that would allow him to once again set up shop in Texas.

"Thank god", the film going audience thought, "that in our enlightened day and age society doesn't treat its reformed criminals the way they did in 19th century France"
posted by sendai sleep master at 12:31 PM on December 30, 2012 [22 favorites]


I wonder if he had opportunities to hone his BBQ skills in the clink or if he was left with just daydreaming about BBQing and practicing in his dreams.
posted by ian1977 at 12:41 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apparently they called him "Barbecue" in the joint, but maybe he just had bad wind
posted by criticalbill at 12:47 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if he had opportunities to hone his BBQ skills in the clink...
Somehow, I have no problem at all imagining prison authorities taking full advantage of having a BBQ master at their beck-and-call.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:51 PM on December 30, 2012


To cut a long story short, because of his federal conviction, Clyde is unable to secure the food licences that would allow him to once again set up shop in Texas.

WHY?

What possible advantage does society gain by adding one more law punishing people after they've "paid their debt to society," this one preventing people from even making a living? Is this even Constitutional ("cruel and unusual punishment")?

The only reason I can see for this is to make sure that once you've gone to jail, you are so thoroughly crushed that you can never rejoin society again.

(And as for those of you who see this as an opportunity to crack childish jokes, well, no comment...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:51 PM on December 30, 2012 [39 favorites]


More about those 17 [PDF] years.

tl;dr We're winning the war on barbecue; the war on drugs, not so much.
posted by chavenet at 12:56 PM on December 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'll agree that not letting him own his own place is unduly harsh, but I laugh heartily at the idea that you can't make a living as a cook with a criminal record. I've never worked in a kitchen that didn't have regular visits from at least one parole officer.
posted by Etrigan at 12:59 PM on December 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


I FEEL SO MUCH SAFER NOW
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:00 PM on December 30, 2012 [13 favorites]


What possible advantage does society gain by adding one more law punishing people after they've "paid their debt to society,"

Look, this is clearly a stupid law and in this case, tragically applied. But seriously, you can't think of any? OK, I'll try.

Imagine that once upon a time there was a Really Bad Person who got out of prison. I think there are far fewer of these than people think - maybe it was just a stupid or selfish person, if that's easier to imagine. And then they opened up a restaurant with their old criminal pals - maybe it was a real go, maybe it was a front, whatever. They didn't do a great job with food hygiene, maybe they ran a drug business out the side, whatever: it's not hard to imagine something going wrong. Someone gets sick, someone gets busted, whatever.

And some well intentioned activist or politician says "hey, it's crazy to let someone who was in jail for doing terrible things serve food to our community! THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!" and on the face of it, it makes sense. I think most stupid harmful laws come about this way - someone with good intentions running into the law of unintended consequences or just getting carried away.

And I don't think it helps to imagine there is no reason behind it. Instead, think of what those reasons might have been, and try to pretend someone thought they were good reasons. Then think about better ways to accomplish what they were trying to fix.

Otherwise, the world seems a pretty reasonless and stupid place and we must spend our lives angry and uselessly superior.
posted by freebird at 1:05 PM on December 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


Wouldn't the solution be that he is the pit master for an establishment held by his daughter or other trusted person? I assume that he is allowed to work but not be a proprietor, per se. Ha, would another solution be a boutique training school for pit masters? Run workshops and so forth?

Is Texas and or Federal law so strict that no reformed criminal is allowed to make food?
posted by jadepearl at 1:07 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the upsides of the Internet for a foodie like me is the ease with which I can locate awesome food and add restaurants to my bucket list. One of the downsides of this is that these restaurants are often nowhere near Boston. So now I've got restaurants all over the country and globe that I need to try but that are days of driving and plane flights away. I'm adding Clyde's barbecue to my list now, right below a sushi restaurant in Japan. (Yes, that one.)

Luckily, I'm young so I've got some time. I'll plan a cross-country road trip and knock a bunch of restaurants off my list. I like barbecue, I really do. I haven't been down South yet so I arguably haven't had "authentic" barbecue yet, though for the moment I feel content with gems like Tiffani Faison's Sweet Cheeks Q. And even though I can't eat the food at these far-away restaurants now, it's a comforting thought that the food is out there. Someday.

Anyway. This is a long way of saying: Thanks, criticalbill. This is awesome. *Foodie hug!*
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston at 1:09 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well the trouble with that freebird, is that my take on why there might be such a rule like that is not to THINK OF THE CHILDREN or some other misguided but understandable motive, but instead from a fetish for punishment and/or deterrence over sensible criminal rehabilitation policy
posted by criticalbill at 1:13 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


FWIW I haven't found anyone other than Chris Floyd saying that he can't obtain his permits solely because of his conviction. Perhaps there's other reasons. It does sound like the sort of thing they might do in Texas though, although I speak as someone who's never been within 1000 miles of Texas
posted by criticalbill at 1:17 PM on December 30, 2012


Not sure what's up with this "London Based Photographer", but when interviewed by the Dallas News, Biggins said he was shut down because he didn't have a food service permit or enclosed kitchen area and that he was looking for a food truck or portable building. The problem he faced, he said, was not law but instead financial -- he didn't have money or a credit history.

And if Chris Floyd wants to have really good BBQ, he should try the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville. The Best. That nobody spent time in the joint is just extra.
posted by Houstonian at 1:18 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


instead from a fetish for punishment

Sure criticalbill. I just think seeing all these laws as coming from a punishment fetish" is probably counterproductive. You're not giving your opponents credit for any good intent or motive, your stories are all end up being about how people suck and like to punish each other - which gets boring and repetitive fast, while human error and good intentions-gone-wrong are the fuel for a civilization's worth of good tales - and you end up seeing every law you don't like as coming from the same source which you can't effect.

Like I said, you can totally see the world as reasonless and yourself as superior. I just don't find it as pleasant as assuming most people are trying to do something useful, it's just hard to do.

Like some others point out, I'm having a hard time seeing this (almost certainly stupid and counterproductive) law as something that couldn't be gotten around. There might be some advantages to doing it this way anyhow - for example, if all the money comes in as "donations" and "tips", does he pay the same tax?
posted by freebird at 1:23 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


jeez freebird, patronise much?
posted by criticalbill at 1:26 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know how it is, it's nice to have a hobby!
posted by freebird at 1:29 PM on December 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't disagree that it is nice to imagine most people are not heartless bastards, but regardless of whether people have good intentions, lots of laws are fundamentally misguided and come from ideas of the world that are profoundly cruel
posted by criticalbill at 1:31 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is a great post BTW, I'm just (over) reacting to the OMG THE MAN IS KEEPING HIM DOWN FOR NO REASON stuff in the comments.
posted by freebird at 1:32 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Imagine that once upon a time there was a Really Bad Person who got out of prison. I think there are far fewer of these than people think - maybe it was just a stupid or selfish person, if that's easier to imagine. And then they opened up a restaurant with their old criminal pals - maybe it was a real go, maybe it was a front, whatever. They didn't do a great job with food hygiene, maybe they ran a drug business out the side, whatever: it's not hard to imagine something going wrong. Someone gets sick, someone gets busted, whatever.

It's a good thing that there are no police who could investigate a restaurant suspected of being a front and no inspectors who could enforce food hygiene. Clearly, the only recourse is to prevent people who have once committed a federal crime from opening restaurants, because only people who have once committed a federal crime would ever have bad food hygiene or run a restaurant as a front.

Something like your just-so story may well be the etiology of Texas' law in particular, but it's still an incredibly stupid reason.
posted by kenko at 1:35 PM on December 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


How does something called the "Texas BBQ Posse" end up with a URL ending in "blogspot.co.uk"?
posted by Fnarf at 1:36 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


And some well intentioned activist or politician says "hey, it's crazy to let someone who was in jail for doing terrible things serve food to our community! THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!" and on the face of it, it makes sense.

No, it makes no sense at all - the idea that you're going to get good results by letting a Really Bad person out of jail and then depriving him of an honest way of making a living is ridiculous.

If someone is Really that Bad that they are a threat to society no matter what they do, they should simply not be let out of jail in the first place. And this isn't a law about Really Bad people - this seems to be a law applying to every felon, whether they went to jail for mass murder, drug dealing, stock fraud or tax evasion.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:44 PM on December 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's the actual text from the link, I think (second non-video one):

To cut a long story short, possibly because of his federal conviction, as well as the need for upfront cash, Clyde is unable to secure the food licences that would allow him to once again set up shop in Texas.

That's really not the same as:

To cut a long story short, because of his federal conviction, Clyde is unable to secure the food licences that would allow him to once again set up shop in Texas. (Quoted by sendai sleep master above.)
posted by alasdair at 1:46 PM on December 30, 2012


to be fair to sendai sleep master, I think chris floyd has changed his post in the interim
posted by criticalbill at 1:48 PM on December 30, 2012


I think I copied the same line in my comment from the same article, which might have changed since this post went up.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:52 PM on December 30, 2012


Yeah, I didn't want to derail, so I'll just say I think it's a stupid and bad law, I just think there are reasons people make laws like that beyond sheer malice, and even if they are bad reasons, it's worth understanding them. Done.

More interesting is the stuff chavenet linked to. And of course the delicious BBQ! I thought that Texas BBQ was of the tomato and sauce based genus, is this dry style an exception to that or do I have my gastronomic subcultures mixed up again?
posted by freebird at 1:54 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, my apologies, sendai sleep master. I didn't realise.

Also from the articles: Earlier this year, he set up his pit on an East Oak Cliff corner and sold barbecue off the street. Police shut down his business because he didn’t have the required food service permit or enclosed kitchen area to cook the food.

I've checked what I think is the right website, and there indeed several regulatory requirements needed to be able to sell food: Food and Drug Licensing Group. The application forms don't appear to require any details about previous convictions.

Looks to me like the burden of regulation that we right-wingers go on about ad nauseum! It always falls hardest upon small businesses and forms a barrier to entry, decreasing economic growth. Smile.
posted by alasdair at 1:54 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is no such law. There are only banks who worry that if you once had a good business but still were running drugs, then maybe you aren't a good risk now. You guys are getting played with that angle.
posted by Houstonian at 2:01 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bah, deeply annoying that we appear to have been trolled by the original article. At least the internet lets the writer update errors in near-real-time...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:20 PM on December 30, 2012


There are only banks who worry that if you once had a good business but still were running drugs, then maybe you aren't a good risk now.

Perhaps he should take his business to HSBC then? I understand they're rather generous when it comes to accomodating their usual drug dealing clientele -- plus their special understanding with the feds mean that if he happens to get nicked again, they can use their lawyers to broker him a deal that avoids his having to serve any more prison time.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:21 PM on December 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


PeterMcDermott: "There are only banks who worry that if you once had a good business but still were running drugs, then maybe you aren't a good risk now.

Perhaps he should take his business to HSBC then?
"

As an added bonus, they can change their name to HSBBQ
posted by chavenet at 2:47 PM on December 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


How does something called the "Texas BBQ Posse" end up with a URL ending in "blogspot.co.uk"?

Blogspot started redirecting to your "local" domain a while back, regardless of which version of Blogger/whatever Google calls it now the blog actually exists in. I assume criticalbill is in Britain.
posted by hoyland at 3:05 PM on December 30, 2012


There is no such law. There are only banks who worry that if you once had a good business but still were running drugs, then maybe you aren't a good risk now. You guys are getting played with that angle.
posted by Houstonian at 5:01 PM on December 30 [+] [!]


Are you sure? I am quite sure restaurants in New York are supposed to have supposedly squeaky-clean owners, to avoid mob connections. It may have to do with the liquor license, though.
Meantime, there's this idiotic and punitive treatment of a mother trying to get food stamps:

http://www.alternet.org/trading-sex-f-cking-happy-meal-mom-cant-get-food-stamps-after-drug-offense-resorts-prostitution-feed
posted by etaoin at 4:24 PM on December 30, 2012


Looks like it's a funding issue more than any law. Credit scores are an awful way of determining anyone's potential to default. Hope he finds a way through this.
posted by arcticseal at 4:58 PM on December 30, 2012


Perhaps he should take his business to HSBC then? I understand they're rather generous when it comes to accomodating their usual drug dealing clientele

Only the succesful ones.
posted by atrazine at 5:52 PM on December 30, 2012


Living in society on Easy Mode, it all seems pretty perfect.

Looking at society without the Easy Mode filter on and HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THAT TERRIBLE MESS OF GREED AND PREJUDICE?! Is that what I live in? What the fuck... and so on.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:53 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


we must spend our lives angry and uselessly superior
To be fair, this is pretty much what metafilter is for these days.
posted by !Jim at 7:59 PM on December 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks for this BBQ post. I am learning BBQ and want to get it to the point of "feeling it is right" rather than measuring everything. Getting there...I have a quarter chord of apple wood ready for some shoulder smoking on Thursday.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:49 PM on December 30, 2012


Only the succesful ones.

That applies to all their customers though. *Twice*, over the holiday period, I've had some wanker from the bank calling me, trying to waste my time by persuading me to listen to a sales pitch for a product I neither want nor need.

During the first call, I told them quite clearly that courtesy would involve their *not* calling me to try and sell some pointless shit that I don't want.

However, I'm guessing that if they were hiding millions and millions of dollars made in the slunk trade, the only calls I'd be getting would be to let me know that:

'I'm sorry but we're going to have to charge an additional percentage point on this transaction. Yes, I know it's a lot, but we've got some really big motherfuckers on the payroll now and those bastards won't lift an arse-cheek unless you make it worth their while.

But you can rest assured that if the shit ever does hit the fan, nobody will ever be seeing a day in jail time. And that kind of reassurance has gotta be worth the money, amirite?

Amirite?'
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:25 AM on December 31, 2012


I hope he gets a truck together; I'm interested in trying his BBQ. (Also shades of the Mueller BBQ stuff here in Austin.)

Now feeling the need for an Austin-area BBQ meetup.
posted by immlass at 11:19 AM on December 31, 2012


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