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Wilber’s Barbecue, one of NC’s iconic BBQ restaurants, has closed

What exactly IS Carolinas’ BBQ? Here’s what stands out (hint: it’s not just the pork).

What exactly IS Carolinas' BBQ? Here's what stands out (hint: it's not just the pork). Charlotte Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis explains.
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What exactly IS Carolinas' BBQ? Here's what stands out (hint: it's not just the pork). Charlotte Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis explains.

Wilber’s Barbecue, considered one of North Carolina’s essential barbecue joints, has closed, according to the state’s department of revenue.

A photo on social media shows a sign from the N.C. Department of Revenue saying the restaurant “has been seized for nonpayment of taxes,” according to the Goldsboro News-Argus.

Friday morning, the Wayne County clerk of court office confirmed that Wilber’s has five state tax liens on file. Three liens filed last year and two this year total nearly $64,000 in unpaid North Carolina taxes, the clerk of court’s office said.

Wilber’s has been open since 1962, named for 88-year-old owner Wilber Shirley, and is considered one of the icons in Eastern North Carolina barbecue.

The restaurant is at 4172 U.S. 70. In an emailed statement, the state Department of Revenue declined to provide additional details, citing the “taxpayer secrecy law.”

“Under state law, the Department of Revenue has the power to seize a business for nonpayment of taxes as a last resort after all other voluntary and forced tax collection measures have failed,” said Schorr Johnson, director of public affairs for the department. “When and if the tax issue is resolved, the NCDOR relinquishes control to the owner.”

Efforts to reach owners were unsuccessful.

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A pitmaster carries a shovel full of glowing hardwood coals through the smoke-filled cookhouse at Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro. The first rays of morning sunlight filter through the smoke as he fires the barbecue pit of slow-cooking pigs for the last time that day after cooking the pigs through the night. Wilbur’s is one of only a handful of barbecue restaurants that still cooks entirely on hardwood coals. Scott Sharpe ssharpe@newsobserver.com


The last year has been unkind to some of the state’s most historic barbecue institutions, with Wilber’s joining other famous North Carolina barbecue restaurants to close in recent months.

Allen & Son Barbeque closed in December after 48 years. Bill’s Barbecue in Wilson closed in January after 56 years.

Charlotte Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis explains what happens every time she writes about BBQ - and tells us the one thing that astonishes her every time she eats a barbecue sandwich.



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