5th generation BBQ fan starts ‘Save Thomas Pit BBQ’ Facebook page, petition in response to buy out & closure

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) - Employees are speaking out following last week's closure of Madison's favorite BBQ joint. Thomas Pit Bar-B-Q closed last Thursday to make way for Rick's BBQ next year - but not if the Thomas Pit faithful can help it.

A sign on the door last week read ‘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. We were told by employees the building would be razed and that construction on a new Rick's restaurant would take 8 to 10 months.

"Yeah it hurt, it really hurts because we're all family, you know -- not just family but we had family members working there and all the other employees who were family too," says Rita Larman who has worked at Thomas Pit for 36 years.

Larman say the era of barbeque as Madison knows it is over. Larman says when the hammer fell late last week, it was a shock to everyone. She said there had been whispers for months Thomas Pit was to be sold, but employees never thought they'd have such short notice. Larman says 2 months ago salaries at the restaurant saw a whopping blow.

Larman and others were told to apply at the future Rick's location, but she says that's just not good enough. She says in the span of 24 hours employees were told by owner Glenn Garcia the restaurant would be demolished and that they needed to apply for unemployment. After the Columbus Day holiday, Larman says she'll hot the job search hard. All she has to fall back on is a degree in criminal justice.

"We all have bills to pay  -- house payments, car payments -- you know, it's just ridiculous to not have known. As much as we've put into the restaurant and to just find out at the last-minute like that what was going on."

Pam Hailey, who says her family has loved Thomas Pit for 5 generations, started a 'Save Thomas Pit BBQ' page on Facebook last Friday.

Monday afternoon the page had more than 3,000 likes. Hailey also started a change.org petition which boasts nearly 400 signatures. She has also started a GoFundMe account to benefit the Thomas Pit crew. Monday afternoon the account had garnered $350 in donations.

In the face of personal and financial uncertainty, many Thomas Pit employees are still thinking about their loyal and now confused patrons.

"I wish we could have known so the customers could have come and at least got their last Thomas Pit meal, but they didn't know either," Larman regrets.






  • Nuclear Mike

    Break out your checkbook fans if you want to save your fav bar-b-que…or move to Mississippi where everything is getting much much much better for fans there!!!

  • Theresa

    Rick can forget it! No one will eat at his place when it is built. No place like Thomas Bar-B-Q. What are the chances of a new location for Thomas Bar-B-Q?

  • Concern

    It seems everyone is upset with Rick. Please tell me why you all do not have questions for Thomas Pitt BBQ owners. They didn’t have to sell the place, but what would be really upsetting to me was they probably knew this for at least over a year and fail to worn Employees. Anybody looking at the flip side of this?? It’s called Business!! Can’t be mad at Rick. Apparently he has the Benjamins to do whatever he wants to his new BBQ location….

  • Dan

    Thomas BBQ was greasy and gross and the restaurant was the filthiest place in Madison. Go to the Chuckwagon. It’s the only good BBQ in the area. I’ve never had Ricks but it has to be better than Thomas.

    • Jeff

      First, I’ve never seen crowds that happily waited for more than an hour and caused traffic jams outside of Rick’s or Chuckwagon…but I *HAVE* seen it at Thomas’ on almost a daily basis for many years. That alone speaks volumes.

      Second, implying that Rick’s or Chuckwagon are better simply because they are “newer and cleaner” is very shortsighted. It’s a well known fact that Thomas’ was an older building and the County Health Inspectors didn’t seem to find it “unclean” in any sense of the word. Quite the opposite in fact.

      Old doesn’t necessarily mean dirty. If you want “new and shiny” there is a Dreamland on University Blvd that may suit your needs even though the food being served is considerably sub-par.

      • Dan

        Go to Chuckwagon at lunch the line is out the door and the food is better because it is, not because it is cleaner. Thomas’s food is bad because it is bad, not because the place is dirty. It just so happens to be dirty and sell food that is horrible.

  • Clint

    The smart thing to do from a business perspective would be for “rick” to have kept the building, changed the name, and kept the current employees. That seems like it would’ve went over much better with the community and his chances at turning a profit.

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