Red Hot & Blue on Hillsborough Street Closes

February, 08, 2010, by David

Red Hot & Blue on Hillsborough Street Closes
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Last week Red Hot & Blue at 1900 Hillsborough Street closed for good.  Staff showed up for work only to find the doors locked.  Many have been left without payment.  The restaurant sat on the prominent corner, replacing the shuttered Darryl’s, and sharing a wall with the Player’s Retreat. There was an ongoing dispute with the Player’s Retreat over shared dumpsters.  The PR even went so far as to setup a sign on the street complaining of the BBQ chain’s debt.  Lastly, Red Hot & Blue is said to be 7 months behind on rent.

We can’t help but wonder how big of a factor the Hillsborough Street makeover played in the failure of the restaurant.  This is not Red Hot & Blue’s first foray on Hillsborough Street, in 2001 they closed their doors a smaller version located where Shanghai Express is now open.

Hat tip to reader Richard S for sharing and for the image.

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Restaurants, Other posts by David.


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  • Matthew S.
    02/08 05:05 PM

    “We can’t help but wonder how big of a factor the Hillsborough Street makeover played in the failure of the restaurant.”

    Since it sits right in front of the DMZ otherwise known as the roundabout project that started about nine months ago, I’m guessing it was the major contributing factor. There’s no parking anywhere close and most of the time the sidewalks are blocked. I’m amazed other shops like Locopops have managed to stay afloat. Somehow I’m not convinced the tiny white “Businesses Are Open” signs are the best the city could have done to support the stores.

    This really bites, especially for all the restaurant staff who were inconvenienced by the abrupt closure. I really enjoyed the place and am disappointed to see it gone. It will be interesting to see what fills that space next, though; it’s a nice chunk of real estate.

  • Billy Z
    02/08 06:16 PM

    A DMZ zone is exactly how I would describe the area. From what I saw, Red Hot and Blue invested thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of dollars to bring back a run down building / landmark, only to have the media tell everyone to avoid the area. Where are the actual building owners? What do they say about the issues businesses are facing on Hillsborough Street? As a resident I fear more closures and no one is doing anything.

    No one will go into that site with the exsisting conditions - you suppose the building owners realize that? What about the staff and residents who lost a great restaurant?
    As for the PR - a true class act.

  • smitty
    02/08 06:29 PM

    Hillsborough Street is business poison.  If they can run off McDonald’s, they can run off anything.

  • JP
    02/08 08:07 PM

    Its true that they did a lot for that space, and it is a shame to see any business on Hillsborough fail. But you can’t put so much blame on the construction, which is 2 months ahead of schedule by the way. It was likely a factor, but there is still parking behind BB&T. Instead of fixating on the construction, how about a few real reasons this was inevitable:
    - They don’t have any reputation for their food. Maybe it was OK. The one or two meals I had there were completely forgettable. You need a destination restaurant there, they don’t seem to be one.
    - No draft beer. Flame away teetotalers, but in a hot microbrew market like Raleigh, not serving craft beer or even Miller Lite on tap is suicide. Thats another big reason I never bother to walk past the PR’s door.
    - No outdoor seating. They couldn’t help this of course, but now with the wider sidewalk the next tenant ought to be able to get in the game.

    Something else will go in there and will flourish, in time. And I bet they will serve beer on tap. Bring on some live music - that space could have a great setup for that.

  • Jerimee
    02/08 08:42 PM

    I feel bad for the employees, otherwise this seems like good riddance to bad rubbish.  Here’s hoping RH&B corporate has the decency to do right by their workers.

  • vw
    02/08 10:29 PM

    “This really bites, especially for all the restaurant staff who were inconvenienced by the abrupt closure.”

    Inconvenienced? Not getting paid and showing up to locked doors is a bit more than an inconvenience. Pretty crappy.

  • Stan Fritterson
    02/08 11:43 PM

    I wonder if selling unfamiliar barbecue had anything to do with the place closing, twice? 

    While I feel sorry for the people that worked there, the owners must have been complete idiots.

  • Barry
    02/09 12:22 AM

    PR let red hot and blue use there dumpsters with the agreement that they would split the monthly cost.  One would think that after a few months PR would be like “YO you owe us some money” but instead they didn’t do jack shit until it got to be $4,000++ and now they complain?  Im sorry but its PR’s fault on that one.

  • luke
    02/09 12:45 AM

    YO Barry, are you serious?

  • Micah
    02/09 02:32 AM

    Luke, Barry is being serious!  I don’t know anything about the PR and RH&B’s dumpster agreements, but I had a similar problem at one of my businesses years ago.  When my neighbor was in arrears on his part of the dumpster bill, I put padlocks on the dumpsters.  They just started putting their trash around the dumpster.  The landlord then billed them for the cleanups, which they didn’t pay.  Then the landlord evicted them.  There were other problems between them and the landlord, but the trash issue was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.  PR shouldn’t have been so forgiving!  On the other hand, both my business and my neighbors were doing well though.  I can guess that if I had a failing business paying dumpster fees would be pretty far down on my list of priorities.

  • Micah
    02/09 02:38 AM

    I just thought about something else that touches on some of the comments here, and it is about letting the public know that the businesses are open during the construction.  Last week someone I know was complaining that they were unsure which businesses were open and which were closed during the construction.  Really?  The construction blows for the businesses in this area for sure, but do people really think that they would close down because there is construction?  This makes no sense to me.

  • Dan from Detroit
    02/09 06:03 AM

    @ Micah - Well, based on the fact that this article is about a closing business I think that’s a fair question.

  • Brian
    02/09 06:06 AM

    Not a good restaurant, so I’m not sorry to see it go.  However, I do feel bad for the people who weren’t paid and are now out of work to boot.

  • Becky
    02/09 10:53 AM

    The owner of RH&B is a sh-t. I used to work at the Hillsborough St. location. He got rid of our meal discounts for the whole menu and would only allow us 50% off of a kids meal before or after our shift. I then heard him tell someone that it was the only way he could buy the new boat he wanted. He hired me for a position that he then got rid of and he never gave me the salary he hired me at. I left when offered a lower position. He was horrible to his employees and I have no doubt that they won;t see a dime of what’s owed to them. Look back at the history of RH&B and you’ll find one paticular owner who has filed bankruptcy and as the ownership changes corporate names, he’s still there. He’s a cheat.

  • RaleighRob
    02/09 11:36 AM

    Crazy situation for sure, but I have to disagree with the comment about parking.  That restaurant had some of the best parking on the Hillsborough strip.  An entire lot behind BB&T. 
    There are lots of restaurants struggling—but still open—on Hillsborough Street that would drool at the chance to have half as much parking as RH&B did.

  • sally
    02/09 11:59 AM

    Locopops and the PR don’t suffer from parking or construction. That’s because they sell quality that people seek out.

    And as RR said - there is an entire parking lot in spitting distance (and outside of the construction zone).

  • Jerimee
    02/09 12:00 PM

    RH&B has numerous locations in Virginia and Maryland, as well as the rest of the country. 

    Should we encourage folks to avoid the franchise until workers in Raleigh are paid in full?

  • ct
    02/09 02:15 PM

    Just the latest in a series of business failures. Undoubtedly the DMZ made a bad sitaution worse. Whether any of these businesses will thrive when Hillsborough construction is finished, time will tell. It will be instructive to see how well Hillsborough functions as a two-lane street with occasional blockage due to parallel parking. My guess is that congestion on Western Blvd, Wade Av, and Clark Av will get worse as Hillsborough turns into a local street.

  • Cackalacka
    02/09 03:59 PM

    Barry, Billy Z, I’m trying to square everything you negatively say about the PR with reality.

    Contrast your presumptions with Becky (and Becky, God bless ya and good luck.)

    The owner and staff of PR are easily the most professional and courteous in the Raleigh restaurant biz. It doesn’t surprise me that a chain run by degenerates would take advantage of their neighborliness and good faith.

    They’re suffering because of the construction, too. The prime differences between them and their neighbors is, they know how to take care of a business in an honest and reputable manner.

    The one time I went into that Red Hot & Blue (having been familiar with their ‘food’ through their N. Raleigh operation as well as corporate functions hosted by a former employer with $h1tty taste in barbeque) was during a playoff canes game last year and the PR was packed. Walked in, ordered a pint of beer, wait… no pints? Why not? Too expensive? Didn’t y’all spend a fortune opening? It was then that I knew that would likely be the only time I’d be giving that spot business.

    But seriously, padlocking the doors and holding back working folk’s salaries; Billy Z, take note, THAT is class.

  • martin
    02/09 06:01 PM

    As someone who has a business in the area and is familiar with both Red Hot and Blue and Hillsborough Street, let me take a minute to clarify a few things.

    First, there was NEVER a previous location of Red Hot and Blue on Hillsborough Street. There was a location in Cary that was closed 3-4 years ago - I believe the plaza was being demolished. There’s a location on Falls.

    Second, a ton of money was obviously put into the building by Red Hot and Blue to turn a CONDEMNED building into a viable business - all to the benefit of the building’s owner. Employees were hired from State. Students and residents now had another alternative on Hillsborough Street. We had another draw to the area.

    The construction turned the entire street into a DMX,  as everyone here has already said. Business owners up and down the street have had little support encouraging customers to the area. Who wants to go down there and get stuck in traffic? Parking – forget it. That upper lot that someone mentioned has been closed on and off for months. Even when it was open - it was full of cars that belonged to the construction crews. 

    The demolition of Hillsborough Street also came at the same time the economy turned. The perfect storm.

    All the businesses in the area have been forced to close at different times or deal with limited or no access. Bulldozers and backhoes a few feet away from their entrances. Businesses up and down Hillsborough Street have turned to their partners for help -  from their vendors, their customers, and their landlords. In this case of Red Hot and Blue, the landlord chose not to be a partner and help keep the business going. It’s my understanding that the landlord – the buildings owner, would do nothing to help keep the business going through the construction - even after all the money that was spent by Red Hot and Blue to bring the building up to code and operate it. It is also my understanding that the landlord locked the doors.

    I agree, I would also think that if a business was struggling to make payroll, your dumpster payments would probably be a lower priority. I don’t pretend to know what the issue was with PR. It’s too bad PR had to resort to what they did. I agree with Billy Z.

    Red Hot and Blue has been in business for many years and I’m sure they have or will pay those who worked for them. I’m sure they would not have opened if they did not think they would be successful.

    From my view, instead of encouraging and bringing business to my area, the construction and short sighted landlords have discouraged success on Hillsborough Street. It’s too bad.

  • Cackalacka
    02/09 06:20 PM

    Martin, that business you have in the area, it wouldn’t happen to be Red Hot and Blue, would it?

    Regardless, in choosing between businesses that cheat their neighbors and employees, versus those that post passive-aggressive bulletins, I’ll take the latter. You and Billy Z enjoy the faux-be-que.

  • ncmyk
    02/09 08:46 PM

    i don’t remember a red hot & blue on hillsborough before…i think you all might be confusing it with q shack which moved to north hills.

    sorry for the sterotypical laugh, but i went down hillsborough street a few months ago and the sign in front of the asian restaurant near university towers said ‘business are open.’

  • DPK
    02/09 09:26 PM

    Agreed with ncmyk, I don’t remember a previous Red Hot & Blue on Hillsborough before this one.  There was the Q-Shack where Jasmine is now, but that’s about it.

  • tjoad
    02/09 10:56 PM

    Yeah I don’t remember a previous one either…

    I live a block from RH&B and tried it twice but I will not miss it.  The food was below mediocre.

    They did a pretty good job renovating the building though.

  • Mc
    02/10 01:57 AM

    There was also, Blue Moon BBQ that was where Waba is now which is upstairs from Shanghai Express.

    The location is actually between the two roundabouts they are building (mostly done at this point) and the smaller one I imagine impacted their parking some.  As someone who’s on Hillsborough St almost daily, I will say that the construction is hugely disruptive.  However, I do agree that it’s in the long term interests of the street and the area to have it done.  This was always going to hurt current businesses and you would hope that landlords, whom this construction will greatly benefit would be understanding of their tenants problems.

    I have to agree though that RH&B’s food was mediocre and a little pricey.  Even while it was open, I’d rather drive to Ole Time (their original or new locations) or for a particularly long lunch, even Q-shack in North Hills.

  • T-Plain
    02/10 02:08 PM

    Sally hits the nail on the head: “Locopops and the PR don’t suffer from parking or construction. That’s because they sell quality that people seek out.”

    People are still going to those places and Mitch’s, Global Village, etc because customers are willing to put up with a little gravel and mud to get there. I’m sure business is down for all the places along the street, but RH&B was never that kind of place, construction or no.

  • orulz
    02/10 02:25 PM

    The food wasn’t spectacular but it wasn’t terrible either. I will miss it for one reason: is there anywhere else in town that has SC style mustard BBQ sauce? Or will I be stuck making it myself?

    (Yes, I know, Raleigh is Vinegar territory… but it’s nice to have variety every now and then)

  • ct
    02/10 02:29 PM

    That SC mustard stuff is definitely a mutant strain. Like Texas, it’s not BBQ… it’s grilled meat in an overpowering sauce. Just happens to be beef and spicy tomato sauce in Texas, instead of pork and mustard in SC.

  • Brian
    02/10 02:37 PM

    “That upper lot that someone mentioned has been closed on and off for months. Even when it was open - it was full of cars that belonged to the construction crews.”

    Having lived nearby for a great deal of the construction period, I have to say that I never once saw the lot closed or filled up to the point where I couldn’t get a spot, and never had any issues parking there to go to Locopops or PR.

  • Richard Slater
    02/10 03:51 PM

    I notice there is now line through the following at the top of this story:
    “Hat tip to reader Richard S for sharing and for the image.”

    I just want to point out that I never mentioned anything in my original “tip email” to David about a previous RH&B restaurant on Hillsborough St. Actually here is my email I sent them:

    “Red Hot and Blue closed last Thursday. Staff not paid for last week or so. Some people showed up for work not knowing the doors were closed.
    They were behind on rent for 7 months (per Players Retreat staff). There was also a dispute with the owners of Players Retreat over some dumpsters they shared. See attached photo that Gus from the PR had outside the PR a couple of weeks back.


    Richard Slater.”

  • raleighite
    02/14 12:15 AM

    The food at RH&B (any location) is always so-so.  I would drive all the way down Hillsborough Street, from Man Mur to the YMCA twice, to eat at The Pit!

  • Jerimee
    02/14 02:45 PM

    A crew three big Ryder moving trucks were moving stuff out of the building yesterday.

  • stafa287
    02/14 09:17 PM

    Orulz, Dillard’s BBQ in Durham sells bbq with a more SC inspired mustard sauce.

  • Tom @ NCSU
    04/08 04:36 PM

    Well, that explains why RB&B was closed yesterday when my students and I tried to meet there. So we tried PR, and I really liked it. However, our server at the time—nice woman—was confused, and spent more time flirting with a table of guys than in ensuring that our orders were complete. Food and the bar are great, and I really hope that the server is an exception, or gets her act together, otherwise my colleagues at State will take even more business to Mitch’s (whose food is nowhere near as good as PR).

  • Jerimee
    04/08 05:05 PM

    flirty waitresses at PR? I’m there!

  • CB
    04/19 07:19 PM

    I feel bad for PR (a Raleigh landmark) but the closing of RH&B brought a huge smile to my face.  The owner/gm was a terrible human being and I hope failure follows him throughout life.

  • anav26
    02/14 06:05 PM

    None of you have any idea what you’re talking about. The dumpsters, The renovation, The PR, Clearly people are taking sides but I would like to know how everyone heard that RH&B was closing from the “staff” @ PR???? Was it because the owner is a lawyer? Did he somehow have inside information? Was he in cahoots with “the Landlord”??? (he rents from Tommy as well.) Anybody have any insight on those questions?  If so contact me and we’ll talk

  • Micah
    02/14 08:32 PM

    No one cares.  The last post on this thread was 10 months ago.  David’s Dumplings and Noodles has been open in the space for a long while now.  They are doing well.  Their food is good and fairly priced.  PR is still going strong, as it has for decades.

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