Country music was declining in popularity from the benchmark set earlier in the decade. Coupled with a poor Texas economy, the recipe was ripe for turmoil. It was apparent that Barnett, Taylor and partners were unable to secure the capital necessary for the Stockyards development. Liquor sales were also tapering off from what they had been in prior years. When an ice storm hit the week of Christmas and New Year’s of 1987 and just a few visitors were able to come to town, the reliable cash cow was finally milked dry. Billy Bob’s closed on Jan. 8, 1988 – a sad day for employees, creditors, the Stockyards, and Fort Worth. Billy Bob Barnett filed for bankruptcy. “I remember the day Billy Bob Barnett left town,” Don Jury said. “Jan. 15, 1988, we met for breakfast. Billy Bob handed me the keys to the club and said he was going to try to find money to reopen.” Jury knew his job was to keep Billy Bob’s intact until relief came.
Salvation came in the person of industrialist Holt Hickman, a native Texan who had an affinity for the Stockyards. Hickman had owned several businesses and was known around Fort Worth for his business savvy and charitable generosity. Holt Hickman had a longtime friendship with Steve Murrin, the unofficial “Mayor of Cowtown,” who had not only managed Cowtown Coliseum but also owned much of the property along Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards. Hickman, Murrin, and Jury formed a partnership and reopened quietly on Nov. 25, 1988. A conservative advertising budget made it tough to get the word out, and they operated on a cash-only basis with media and suppliers until the debts were handled. Many of the former employees were glad to have their jobs back, including Entertainment Director, Robert Gallagher, and Production Director, Bear Crossnoe (the longest employed member of the Billy Bob’s family). December was a light month but New Year’s Eve Merle Haggard and Jo-El Sonnier headlined, calling all big names back to the Billy Bob’s main stage.