Words & Deeds

After demolishing Smoky Davis, ACHD sued the owners. Here’s what the court has ruled.

Longtime Boise smokehouse demolished due to State Street construction

Construction workers tore into the former Smoky Davis building in the spring of 2018. The restaurant closed as part of the State Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway redesign.
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Construction workers tore into the former Smoky Davis building in the spring of 2018. The restaurant closed as part of the State Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway redesign.

When motorists pass the empty lot on State Street where Smoky Davis once stood, 65 years worth of nostalgia drifts through traffic like the scent of spiced jerky and holiday hams.

But wait — what’s that other whiff?

Is that the smell of victory?

Not exactly. But an eminent-domain battle being followed closely in Boise has taken a step forward. This month, Ada County District Court Judge Deborah Bail issued an opinion about the clash between Ada County Highway District, which demolished Smoky Davis in 2018 as part of the State Street/Veterans Memorial Parkway/36th Street intersection expansion, and Gary and Dee Davis, who own the family business.

The judge green-lighted the Davises to move forward with their claim to seek recovery from ACHD for rebuilding Smoky Davis on the remaining property.

It’s a win for Smoky Davis lovers. There’s still plenty of meat on the bone if you’re hoping for the iconic shop to be reborn.

But it’s not the win.

The 17-page court ruling is complex, but the crux of the disagreement is simple. ACHD took only about an eighth of an acre, but it also demolished Smoky Davis and the adjacent buildings. The Davises believe they are owed money to rebuild on their remaining land — right next to the site of the original business at 3914 W. State St. That’s where Gary Davis’ grandfather, Del, bought the Smoky Davis building in 1953. And Gary’s dad, Jerry, took over in 1970.

When the Davises rejected $248,260 in just compensation, ACHD sued.

“ACHD contends it needs to pay only for the land it took plus moving expenses,” the Davises said in an email last week. “Since we are not moving to a new location, we contend ACHD should replace the buildings it tore down. The question of whether ACHD has to replace the buildings, in addition to paying for the land it took, was submitted to the court.”

This is where the Davises just won.

“Now that we know we were right about ACHD being responsible for the costs of rebuilding on our property, we hope we can reach some resolution with ACHD without having to go to trial. If we can’t, a jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 11, 2020, to determine the amount ACHD will have to pay for the land and buildings it has taken.”

And a jury could decide, well — who knows what?

Bottom line: It’s still going to be a while before Smoky Davis turkeys could be back on Boise tables during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

How long? The attorney representing ACHD was out of the office this week and unavailable for comment. (And ACHD declined to comment when the Statesman wrote about the lawsuit last November.)

It’s been a journey for the Davises. And it’s far from over — even if they just want to get back to smoking meats.

“It has been an emotional roller coaster for us,” the Davises said. “We want to get on with our lives, but that is not possible until we get this behind us.”

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Michael Deeds is a columnist and entertainment writer at the Idaho Statesman, where he chronicles the Boise good life with reporting and opinion. Deeds invaded the newsroom as an intern in 1991.

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