Madison’s Thomas Pit Bar-B-Q ‘Closed Until Further Notice’

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) - Those craving smokey goodness got quite the surprise when they showed up to Thomas Pit Bar-B-Q in Madison Friday. The restaurant has closed.
It's not often you see the parking lot at Thomas Pit empty. As a matter of fact, the lunch rush usually causes a mini traffic jam on Highway 72. But when customers pulled up Friday they quickly learned there was no pork, beef or chicken to be had.

(PHOTO: David Wood, WHNT)

(PHOTO: David Wood, WHNT)

A sign on the door reads 'Closed until further notice,' citing new ownership. It was obvious employees were in a bit of a stupor. They told us off camera they were instructed to close the restaurant at 4p.m. Thursday. They say Thomas Pit has been bought by Rick's BBQ.

Rick's has locations in Muscle Shoals, Florence and throughout southern Tennessee. With employees packing up supplies, moving furniture and even wiping away tears, we were still unable to get answers as to when the decades old business will reopen as Rick's. We were told by employees they had heard the building would be razed and that construction on a new restaurant would take 8 to 10 months.

Employee Rita Larman, who has worked at the restaurant since 1977, told us former owner Glen Garcia Friday told employees, "start applying for unemployment."

Larman says employees found out weeks ago the restaurant would be bought by Rick's but found out only 3 days ago the sale would mean demolition of the building and the end of Thomas Pit.

WHNT News 19 attempted to contact management from Rick's BBQ but have not heard back yet. We will give you an update when we track down more information about the closure.


  • Matt Crunk

    I’ve known Rick Lanning for years and he’s obviously a smart businessman, but can’t understand for the life of me why anyone would buy a business, especially a local institution like Thomas Pit BBQ, just to tear it down and build something new. Wouldn’t it make more sense just to buy an empty lot nearby and start from scratch? I really hate it for the people who worked there.

  • Decatur

    Nothing will ever compare to Thomas Pitt!! Rita was a great, friendly and smiling Employee every time we visit there! Mr.Rick, Madison refuse to support your business as we did a Thomas Pitt BBQ!! REALLY WILL MISS MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT! !

    • Mark Cumber

      Me neither! I really hate what happened, I would have tried to get another visit or two in if I had known the place was going to close. Thanks for the warning, ya asshats!

  • miranda

    You would think by now people would learn the simple life lesson…never change a good thing!! Mrs. Thomas took me to church as a kid and every Thursday when my mom got paid we ate at Thomas’s. The flavor of the food is different from the other BBQ places even though some have tried to imitate and fail. Tear it down and change the menu and you can bet you will never see that drive thru line running along side 72 again. If they were smart they would simply change the name; which is understandable and continue on! So sad

    • Jeanne

      I think this happens when the value of the land the business sits on exceeds the value of the business. We will see if a new BBQ business appears on the same lot. Apparently the owner of Thomas’s was given the offer he couldn’t refuse. It is truely sad that even if a new BBQ business is built that It won’t have the quality of the old one according to those posting here. Old fashioned slow cooked pit BBQ is hard to beat for flavor and loosing out to fast and easy.methods. Sorry to see them go, it was quality food.

      • Mark Cumber

        They were always slammed! I just really don’t know how they didn’t make enough money to stay there. I really don’t know how Rick’s is going to make even more money than they did!

  • Laurie

    I can’t believe it! Why? Why? Why? Thomas pit is a legend around here! People are going to be upset! Rick, you doing this, people will not support you or your restaurant! Shame on you!

  • Kevin

    I really hate to see a local institution disappear but Mr. Thomas was not forced out so he must have good reason to want to sell. Rick’s BBQ is a great restaurant with delicious BBQ. It would be a shame to miss out on great food and supporting your local economy just because the owner of Thomas’s made a business deal

  • Cat

    Why start yelling and screaming about the restaurant being torn down before you know anything? It may have been in poor condition, etc. Why would you not support a restaurant in your community if it is good food? This helps your community. Some people live to complain I guess. SMH

    • Neil B

      Because this isn’t complaining to be complaining. You had a great local business, one that took pride in their food, took hours to slow smoke it, and now it’s being replaced by fast food. Rick’s BBQ is known for cooking their BBQ at a central location, freezing it and then shipping it to their locations.

      If you want a good idea of what to expect to be served at Rick’s, go to Wendy’s and get one of their new pork sandwiches. This is bad news for the local economy and just a plan stupid move on the part of Rick’s. They are immediately making the community not like them months before they even open.

  • Bryan Alexander

    I don’t understand why a successful business would be closed. I can understand the owner selling. Maybe they are tired of the business and want to do other things. Maybe the business isn’t successful. I don’t know. Greenbrier, now Thomas. What is this world coming to?

  • Lori Ingram

    We moved to Florida from Madison 71/2 years ago and Thomas’ is one of the things I miss the most!!!! I can’t believe the new owner would be so short-sighted they could not see that the community loves this place and should continue business as is with the same employees who the customers know and love. My heart is truly broken.

  • David Legg

    ive eaten at ricks many times as well as thomas’, ricks is nowhere as good as thomas’. good BBQ is getting harder and harder to find. its all smoked now instead of pit cooked.

  • Jeff

    As someone who worked in the restaurant industry during my college years, I’ve come to realize that many restaurant owners eventually develop an illness that I like to call “Owner’s Syndrome” where they think that they have the Midas touch and everything they put their hands on will turn to gold. I suspect that this is just another example of “Owner’s Syndrome”. Rick probably should have just bought Thomas’ and left it alone and let the profits roll in…but nooooooooo…he’s gotta put his “Midas touch” on it and will probably end up ruining it in the end.

  • Amanda Townsend

    Such a Shame! some of those employees had been at that place for 10+ years, now they have no job in this economy, BS right here at Christmas time. I will never eat here.
    Good luck to Rick’s BBQ trying to keep the doors open (Sarcasm)… you have pissed of the community that must buy that BBQ to keep your business in operation. Bad PR move man, they should fire their marketing director.

  • P Moore

    Thomas’ cleanliness left a lot to be desired. I’m happy about this. Can’t wait for the new place! Hopefully, they will be smart when building and have a wrap around drive through that doesn’t cause driving hazards on 72, like Thomas’ did.

    • Neil B

      Well if you are looking forward to the new place, go to Wendy’s and order one of their new BBQ sandwiches and you will have a good idea what you will get from Rick’s.

      And Thomas Pit wasn’t dirty, it was old. There is a difference. Sorry if you expect a shining new building, if so, than I suspect McDonalds is likely your favorite restaurant as they tear down less then 10 year old buildings and build new ones.

      We need local, family owned businesses like Thomas Pit, especially ones that have character and people that care about what they are doing and what they serve to the public, because that certainly is not Rick’s. Rick’s is known for their pre cooked, frozen food and bad customer service. But hey, at least you will get to see a new cookie cutter building.

  • G Money

    …and be sure to tear down the Thomas Pit sign out front. Let’s make sure we don’t leave any unique landmarks around as we continue to progress and look just like nearly every other community.

    • Neil B

      I’m sure money did have a part to play, but I doubt in the way you are thinking. Garcia never seemed like he had a clue when he bough it from the Thomas’s. Much of the business seemed to take him by surprise and he was clearly over his head.

      Such a shame for those employees. And such a shame Rick’s owns the recipes, recipes that will never be used so it’s not like someone else can start up something with the employees and recipes.

  • Jeff

    Thomas’ wasn’t dirty…it was just old. If you want “new and squeeky clean” then go down the road to Dreamland and get some sub-par commercialized BBQ.

    • Neil B

      Your remark about Dreamland is a great analogy. Here was a great rib place that was destroyed by someone wanting to come along and make a chain out of it and let the quality slide way down. Well, this is going to be the same thing. Some chain wannabe coming in and destroying a great local restaurant to serve subpar food.

      You’re also very right about it not being dirty. Thomas was always clean, but so many people equate old with dirty. Just because the menu board was something out of the 60’s and the plastic was yellowed with age and the décor was something from another time period does not make something dirty. I feel sorry for people who think that shiny and new is somehow cleaner and can’t begin to grasp the character of a place that had been around for a long time when all that was around it was cotton fields.

  • Jeff

    Thank you. I’m glad someone understands. I’m sure I’m NOT the only one who remembers the original Dreamland in T-Town. With that being said I’m sure I’m also not the only one who finds the new “chain establishment” of Dreamland absolutely revolting.

    Another good example would be if Finnegan’s Pub (Rest in Peace) was replaced with a bright and shiny Bennigans chain of “Irish Pubs”, which would be nothing more than a very poor substitute for the real Finnegan’s….but would no doubt be bright and shiny (which is what some people really want these days).

  • Bec C

    Not right! Now where I am I going to find Bar-B-Q chicken fresh. Everywhere else just does pork which I can’t eat. I won’t my Thomas Bar-B-Q back.

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