Welcome to Neumeier’s Rib Room & Beer Garden
Let me give you a little history about our fine establishment. In 1988, I got my start with a cool little joint called Coney Island, thanks to my business mentors Bob and Barbara Hartness, two long-time downtown folks. Shortly after that, I met Bert Wright, who along with several others, worked on bringing some life to our fading downtown. We hung seasonal banners, organized street dances, etc… anything to give downtown that much-needed spark.
Next to Coney Island, we had a little park. Just some picnic tables and four big oak trees are how the whole Rib Room thing got started. After Coney Island acquired a popular downtown pizza wagon in 1990, we started to make some improvements to the outdoor area. Those improvements would eventually lead us to open Coney Island’s Beer Garden in the summer of 1994.
While we were working on the Beer Garden, I was also spending a lot of time becoming a BBQ connoisseur. I traveled to BBQ joints all over the country until I had what I thought were the best BBQ recipes anywhere. So during the summer of 1994, I introduced Fort Smith to something totally different…our ‘soon-to-be-famous’ dry ribs. Not only did the folks here love ‘em, the judges at the Arkansas State BBQ Championship loved ‘em too. Our dry ribs took first place in the pork division - my first and last time to ever enter a cook-off!
Local musicians played in the Beer Garden the first couple of seasons, under a couple of clamp-lights with colored bulbs hanging from one of the oak trees! In the summer of 1995, the Beer Garden promoted its first national touring act, Popa Chubby, whose song ‘Sweet Goddess of Love & Beer’ was dominating the radio. What a great show, on a make shift stage, but hey, we were onto something. In 1996 we built our first real stage, sold the pizza wagon, and made the park a little larger. The popular downtown pizza wouldn’t be gone long. In 1996 we opened Papa’s Pub & Pizzaria, and still continue today making the same great 'award winning’ pizzas. But it was the BBQ that would eventually make us change everything.
In 1998, we removed the Coney Island signs and remodeled the restaurant, as well as made improvements to the stage and bar area outside. The new name would be Neumeier’s Rib Room & Beer Garden, and everything was falling right into place. I’ve collected music and music memorabilia for as long as I can remember, so I figured the Rib Room would be the place to show it off! With the helping hand of my friend, and fellow ‘downtowner’, Chris Glasco, we transformed the Rib Room. The walls were full of my passion for music and its art.
The original Beer Garden introduced Fort Smith to many great artists, such as Monte Montgomery, Paul Thorn, Theresa Anderson, Bugs Henderson, Ian Moore and even Grammy winner Keb’ Mo.
In 2008, Neumeier’s Rib Room & Beer Garden closed and underwent major renovations to become an all-new live music venue. For an entire year, Fort Smith suffered from Rib Room withdrawals. This era is often referred to as the ‘dry rub apocalypse’.
The completely reconstructed two-story Neumeier’s Rib Room and Beer Garden opened in spring 2009. National acts started to make their way to the new venue. Rock legends Ted Nugent, Bret Michaels, Grace Potter, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, The Winery Dogs, Black Star Riders and Candlebox all rocked the Rib Room stage. Country and Red Dirt favorites such as Justin Moore, Corey Smith, Wade Bowen, Stoney LaRue and Randy Rogers Band also graced our stage. And when weather permitted, we continued serving up our award winning BBQ.
But the summers in Arkansas can be brutal. So after the 2014 season, we made the very difficult business decision to shut down the live music….but….people still wanted those damn ribs.
In the summer of 2015, opportunity came knocking once again. We re-opened a sit-down Rib Room restaurant, just like the good old days. And with a little help from my friends, we transformed this space at 5th and Garrison Avenue.