Roscoe's BBQ in Phoenix, a popular rock and blues venue, has closed its doors after owner and cook Will Moore contracted a rare and painful disorder that kills skin cells.
Moore, 48, came down with Stevens-Johnson syndrome suddenly about a month ago, said his wife and business partner, Nikola Moore, 33. His doctors suspect it was caused by a hypersensitive toxic reaction to taking antibiotics for pneumonia, she said.
Nikola, who did the books and ran the front of the business, must care for him full time, she said.
In Stevens-Johnson syndrome, skin and mucous membranes around openings such as the eyes, nose and mouth blister, eventually causing the top layer of the skin to die and shed. Will describes the pain as "like burning up from the inside," his wife said.
Roscoe's closure on Feb. 17 ended the couple's plans to "run this till we were old and gray and pass it onto someone."
"We never thought it would end this soon," Nikola said. "It's really shocking. It meant the end of jobs for seven people."
Stevens-Johnson syndrome is most commonly caused by reactions to pharmaceutical drugs such as sulfa, anti-epileptic, antibiotics and others, according the Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. The disorder also can come from infections, it said.
Nikola Moore said that after five days of running a high temperature, Will was given an injection of the antibiotic Levaquin and the blisters began within hours.
"They said it was probably a reaction to the drug," she said.
Nikola said she and her husband have not been given a prognosis but have been told there is no cure. Stevens-Johnson syndrome sometimes worsens into toxic epidermal necrolysis, in which case, she said, "they told us he'd be fighting for his life."
"He's on steroids and pain management drugs," she said. "He has lost 35 pounds, has been unable to take solid food, his throat is swollen, he has mood swings and depression. He's not able to work and provide. We don't see all the regulars who used to come in here. Everyone's been devastated."
The Moores started Roscoe's at a growers market in 2006, then expanded into the Phoenix restaurant-tavern in 2008, Nikola said.
David Pinsky, a musician with the Ashland Blues Society, which held regular jam sessions at Roscoe's, said the restaurant and the Moores will be sorely missed.
"It was a wonderful place for the blues and they were a pleasure to work with," Pinsky said. "The food fit with the blues. They were our friends. We're trying hard to find a new place, but there won't be a better one than Roscoe's. It was in a wonderful spot where people from both Medford and Ashland could easily go."
Scott Rogers, of the Fabulous Savoys, valued Will Moore's barbecued ribs and Roscoe's dance floor.
"It's the loss of yet another venue," he said. "There aren't many other spots suited to bands and dancing. It had a roadhouse feel, a cozy old building with nice funkiness."
The Moores do not have health insurance. Nikola expected Will's medical bills to top six figures. To help defray costs, they are accepting donations on PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org (log into your account, then click on the "send money" tab) or to P.O. Box 721, Phoenix, OR 97535.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at email@example.com.