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Fertitta wins Ignite bankruptcy auction

Judge set to rule on deal for Joe’s Crab Shack, Brick House parent

Landry’s Inc. won the bankruptcy court auction Monday for Ignite Restaurant Group Inc., CEO Tilman Fertitta (left) told NRN (photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images). The companies are awaiting the federal judge’s approval.

A judge must approve the sale in a bankruptcy court hearing, which is scheduled for Aug. 17 in Houston.

The Houston-based parent to the Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern + Tap chains filed for bankruptcy protection June 6 with a $50 million “stalking horse” deal in place with Kelly Investment Group, which bought Champps and Fox & Hound out of bankruptcy last year.

However, Fertitta’s company, Houston-based Landry’s, later made a $55 million bid for Ignite’s assets in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas.

“We did not bid on Brick House,” Fertitta said, “but because we had the largest combined bid, we bought Brick House. We’re excited to be able to bring back Joe’s to what it was once before: a very casual, fun seafood restaurant that serves a lot of crabs.”

Brick House will be sold separately when the deal closes, Fertitta said. “It will be on the market,” he said. “If we don’t find a buyer soon, we’ll be hiring a banker to sell Brick House.”

Fertitta originally bought the Joe’s concept in 1994, when it had one restaurant, and sold the brand to private-equity firm J.H Whitney & Co. in 2006, which went public in 2009 and assumed the Ignite Restaurant Group name.

“I don’t think what has happened to Joe’s in the past 12 years has been good,” Fertitta said, “and we’re excited to make the old Joe’s what it was. We will be shrinking the concept down tremendously.”

With closures over the past few months, Joe’s Crab Shack has about 75 units. “We’ll probably end up with about 60 units,” Fertitta.said.

As of April 3, in its last public report before the company was delisted, Ignite reported 112 Joe’s Crab Shack restaurants and 25 Brick House units in 32 states. The company franchised three Joe’s Crab Shack locations in Dubai.

“We all have to make adjustments in this industry,” Fertitta said. “I feel like in the past 12 years under this ownership they’ve made the adjustments the wrong way.”

“Joe’s will get back to fundamentals of good service, hot food hot and cold food cold — and a fun time,” he said.

Fertitta said he planned to keep all the operators. “They’ve been very short on management in the restaurants,” he said. “I think that’s been one of their issues. So even the restaurants we close, we’ll be transferring a lot of the management and hourlies to the restaurants we will be keeping.”

Landry’s and its affiliates own and operate more than 40 hospitality brands, including five Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino locations as well as such restaurant concepts as Landry’s Seafood, Chart House, Saltgrass Steak House, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Claim Jumper, Morton’s The Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick’s, Mastro’s Restaurants and Rainforest Café.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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