- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

Red Hot & Blue Restaurants Inc. found a company with an equally quirky name to buy and expand the local barbecue chain.

Dancing Pigs LLC, a Windermere, Fla., investment group, just closed a deal to buy the Arlington company. The companies declined to reveal the sale price.

“We felt like it’s a great name,” said John Walker, a principal owner of Dancing Pigs. “There’s only a few of them out there that when you say the name, it conjures up a certain image. This conjures up the great barbecue and the blues music.”

More important in Dancing Pigs’ decision to buy the company, of course, was the restaurant’s Southern-style barbecue and music, Mr. Walker said.

Red Hot & Blue was founded in 1988 by a group of friends who wanted to bring the Southern barbecue of their youth to the North. The original investors included former U.S. Rep and former Gov. Don Sundquist, Tennessee Republican, and Lee Atwater, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

“We were just a group of guys who wanted to eat good barbecue and listen to some good blues and R&B; tunes,” said Wendell Moore, co-founder and former chairman of Red Hot & Blue’s board of directors. “We have had success beyond our imagination but have arrived at a point in time when new, seasoned, more experienced and dynamic leadership is necessary to allow Red Hot & Blue to reach its full potential.”

Mr. Moore, who now lives in Nashville, Tenn., said the original investors were going in different directions and decided to sell the company. They still will own the chain’s Annapolis restaurant as a franchisee.

Red Hot & Blue has 33 restaurants, including eight in the Washington area. Dancing Pigs plans to expand Red Hot & Blue but doesn’t have specifics yet, Mr. Walker said.

But Dancing Pigs does plan to make the restaurant a little more Southern.

“At the risk of being politically incorrect, being headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, isn’t necessarily 100 percent Southern,” he said, half-apologetically.

Mr. Walker said they plan to add some Southern desserts to the menu.

“Anything you’re eating at your grandmother’s house in the South,” he said. “Not to take a swipe at New York cheesecake, but I was never offered New York cheesecake [at a Southern dinner].”

Sweet success

If you’re thinking Christmas is an excuse to eat chocolate, you’re not the only one.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, has predicted it sold more than 3 million pounds of M&M;’s chocolate candy this holiday season; enough Snickers Nutcrackers — Snickers bars shaped like a nutcracker — to cover 160 miles; and 600 million holiday Hershey Kisses — about two per person in the United States.

That said, what’s for dessert?

In other news

• Mio, an American cuisine restaurant, is planning to open in the spring on Vermont Avenue Northwest. The restaurant is owned by JohnPaul Damato, formerly of Jaleo; Manuel Iguina, formerly of Oyamel; and Domingo Rodriguez, chief financial officer at the Bank of Georgetown.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com.

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