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Columbia Business Monthly

Restaurateur Bill Hall Sr. Left a Lasting Legacy

By Kevin Dietrich

Bill Hall Sr., whose dining establishments range from the Upstate through the Midlands to the Lowcountry and include Halls Chophouse, High Cotton and Rita’s Seaside Grille, will be missed by those both inside and outside the restaurant industry.

Hall, of Charleston, died unexpectedly on Aug. 18 at the age of 73.

“Bill Hall was a giant in our restaurant industry,” John Durst, president and chief executive officer of the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, said in a written statement. “His incomparable success was based on his strong work ethic, his tireless dedication and his passion to provide the best possible dining experience for everyone who came to one of his establishments.” 

Hall set a very high standard, and he was deeply committed to helping those who worked with him to reach their potential, Durst said.

“The widely acclaimed success of his restaurants are testimonies to his vision, his inspiration and his strong leadership,” he added.

Hall was born in Seattle and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area community of Sausalito. He got his start in the hospitality industry at age 13 by using fake identification papers. Among his early experiences was working in the family grocery store and being fired by his father after Bill Hall had terminated the store’s longtime butcher.

Hall and his wife, Jeanne, spent more than 40 years operating hotels and restaurants in such high-profile locales as Hilton Head; Pinehurst, N.C.; and Napa Valley and Pebble Beach in California. He managed high-end destinations at Ritz-Carlton Hotels around the country, including the Cloister Resort & Beach Club in Sea Island, Ga.

Hall, his wife and sons Tommy and Billy formed Hall Management Group in Charleston in 2008. A year later they opened their first restaurant, Halls Chophouse, in Charleston. The first night Hall borrowed $100 from his longtime friend Judge Sol Blatt to have money in the cash register. They ended the evening making $58, according to his obituary.

It wasn’t long, though, before the Chicago-style steakhouse took off, and Hall Management Group would later open Halls Chophouse restaurants in Columbia, Greenville and Summerville. 

Hall Management Group also operates Halls Signature Events, Slightly North of Broad and High Cotton in Charleston and Rita’s Seaside Grille in Folly Beach.

“In just over a decade, Bill developed one of the most successful hospitality-related companies in not only the greater Charleston area but the entire state,” said Helen Hill, chief executive officer of Explore Charleston. “Bill was tireless in his pursuit of excellence and endeavored to offer patrons an unparalleled experience at his eight restaurants. Thanks to Bill’s leadership, the Hall Management team embraces the true spirit of Lowcountry hospitality.”

Earlier this year, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and businesses in South Carolina were ordered to shut down, Hall vowed to keep every single employee on payroll, funding their pay, benefits and 401(k) out of his own pocket.

Hall brought a lifetime of experience at high-end resorts to his South Carolina restaurants. From working at famed San Francisco hotel The Fairmont as a teen to spending many years with Hyatt Hotels and The Ritz-Carlton Co., and serving as general manager of a variety of renowned hotels, including Pinehurst, Silverado, Pebble Beach and Vail resorts, Hall was able to see what worked and what didn’t within the hospitality industry. 

Hall was active in the community, serving on a number of local boards. Last year, Gov. Henry McMaster appointed him to chair the Patriots Point Development Authority, the body that oversees the maritime museum on Charleston Harbor. 

“Bill was so much more than an owner and operator,” Hill said. “Bill had service in his heart, and that conviction extended beyond the walls of his restaurants. He was undeniably committed to the community and generous beyond measure.”

Both McMaster and Sen. Tim Scott paid tribute to Hall through Twitter.

“We need more Bill Halls,” McMaster wrote in a tweet. “Bill lived the American Dream, and he paid it forward to help others live it too.”

Added Scott, “He was a loving family man and business owner. His contributions made our state shine brighter, and he is already so greatly missed.”

In addition to his wife of 48 years and two sons, Hall is survived by daughter Stacey and two grandchildren.