Gates History

The Gates saga began in 1946 when George W. Gates decided that a family-owned and operated restaurant would be more enticing than life with the railroad. He pooled his resources and opened “Gates Ol’ Kentucky” at 19th and Vine which was the first of the now thriving restaurant chain known today as “Gates Bar-B-Q.”

During 1949, as the population began to shift, a move was made to 23rd and Charlotte – however a dream to open a bar in conjunction with the restaurant drew him back to 19th & vine in 1951. This dream was shortlived – a major fire occurred in 1951, forcing him to move the business to 24th & Brooklyn and remain there until 1957.

Gate’s Ol’ Kentucky.


(Top:) Gates at 12th & Brooklyn in 1958

(Bottom:) Interior of O.G’s

Despite all adversities, George Gates continued to persevere and managed to maintain the high quality of food and the same distinctive flavor of the barbecue sauce. In 1954 a second restaurant was opened at 12th & Highland and operated alongside the 24th & Brooklyn facility.


The year 1956 proved to be a decisive year for the Gates family. The business underwent a name change to “Gates & Son’s Bar-B-Q” – due to George Gates’ son, Ollie, now taking an active role in the operations. Having worked in the business after school, summers and weekends while in school and college, Ollie learned the business thoroughly. With a college degree in building construction and the invaluable training he received in the United States Army School of Engineering, Ollie felt it was time to embark upon his barbecue restaurant/lounge at 31st & Indiana under the name “O.G’s”.


Ollie called upon his reservoir of college and military training and experience to become an important factor in the design of the barbecue oven, the traffic flow lay-out for both customers and employees and the design of the lounge.

For the next nine years the Gates family continued their maturation process with his mother and sister operating the Gates restaurant at 12th & Brooklyn and Ollie operating “O.G’s” at 31st & Indiana. During that time, however Ollie began conceiving a new style of building to house future Gates Bar-B-Q restaurant, and a new restaurant at 1411 Swope Parkway was opened in 1970. A second location was opened in 1972 in Leawood, Kansas, continuing this theme.

Growing fast, a Kansas City, Kansas restaurant was opened in 1975 and an Independence, Missouri location was added in 1979. These restaurants thrived as people from throughout the metropolitan area became avid customers, but more importantly, two milestones had been passed: first, the myth that Kansas City could accommodate only a few barbecue restaurants had been destroyed and secondly, that barbecue had been elevated to a respectable industry.

Gates on State Line (1970s)

The Gates Commissary (1980s)

As demand for sauce continued to grow, the decision was made in 1975 to introduce our products to grocery stores. Some responded favorably immediately, however others displayed some reluctance to stock something they felt might yield questionable investment returns. Persistence and strong consumer appeal prevailed and all major supermarkets in the metro soon stocked Gates Bar-B-Q Sauce on their shelves.

In 1983, we began national distribution, and in 1984 we opened our modern Gates Commissary – where we now manufacture and distribute our sauce & spices.

In 1994, a new location in the heart of Kansas City was opened at Linwood & Main. Gates celebrated 50 years of business in 1996, and in 1997 our Corporate office was relocated to a renovated building at the southeast corner of Brush Creek and Paseo. Along with this, a new restaurant was built from the ground up just down the street on Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard.

March 17, 2005, tragedy struck the family when the matriarch Arzelia June Smith Gates passed away, leaving Ollie, her son and two daughters Winnifred and Gwendolyn. In 2007, Winnifred Gates passed.

Gates Bar-B-Q is a family owned company and a Kansas City original with our unique red roof design and “Struttin Man” in full tuxedo and top hat. The connection of good food, fast personalized service and the immediate greeting, “HI, MAY I HELP YOU?” all act as our trademark.

Gates on Linwood & Main (1990s)