Maverick Southern Kitchens in talks to sell to Halls

Slightly North of Broad, or SNOB, has been a mainstay of the downtown Charleston dining scene for more than 20 years.

Maverick Southern Kitchens is having “very serious discussions” with the Hall family about the possibility of the steakhouse owners buying the restaurant chain, president and founder Dick Elliott told employees this week.

No deal has yet been finalized, but Elliott anticipates an announcement by late April.

While rumors have been swirling for months, Elliott was reluctant to directly address his staff, citing the fragility of business negotiations. He changed his mind after a longtime employee confronted him, asking whether he was selling off the company because of personal health issues.

“He looked very distressed,” Elliott said Friday. “I told him, ‘That’s not true.’”

To set the story straight within the company, Elliott on Wednesday revealed that he’d narrowed down the list of potential buyers to the Halls, who operate Halls Chophouse on upper King Street in downtown Charleston and Rita’s Seaside Grill at Folly Beach.

“We’re certainly continuing very serious discussions with them,” Elliott said. “The critical part is financing.”

According to Elliott, he has “received many inquiries about purchasing some or all of Maverick Southern Kitchens” over the past few years. In January, Elliott told The Post and Courier, “We had a record year in 2014, the last year and the year before that. The second half of 2014 was just gangbusters.”

Elliott in 1989 purchased The Colony House, now the site of the Harbour Club on Prioleau Street. Four years later, he opened Slightly North of Broad around the corner on East Bay Street, installing Frank Lee as chef.

The Elliott Group rechristened itself Maverick Southern Kitchens in 2001. Maverick now operates High Cotton, Old Village Post House in Mount Pleasant, and Charleston Cooks!, a retail shop that offers cooking classes, in addition to SNOB. Both High Cotton and Charleston Cooks! have Greenville locations; there’s also a Charleston Cooks! in Columbia. Maverick employs 260 workers.

The Halls opened Halls Chophouse in 2009. Family patriarch Bill Hall spent 40 years running hotels and restaurants in Pinehurst, N.C., Hilton Head and California before relocating to Charleston.

Elliott briefly mounted a campaign to become Charleston’s next mayor, in February becoming the first candidate to drop out of the race.

“Since October, I’ve worked hard to successfully manage three important priorities in my life: organizing a campaign for mayor of a city I love, positioning my business interests to operate without my day-to-day involvement, and fulfilling my responsibilities to my extended family,” he said in a statement announcing his withdrawal.