From the Tennessean newspaper article by G. Chambers Williams III:
“We have signed a lease and we’re ready to roll,” said Mark Bloom, a principle in the Corner Partnership, which is involved in several other downtown properties including the Hilton and Union Station hotels. “Buffett wants to make music a big part of the venue here, and the café is going to appeal to the young crowd, locals and visitors to our city,” he said. “Besides the food and special drinks synonymous with Margaritaville, the music will be a special attraction.”
They hope to open by the end of the year on Lower Broadway in the 18,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by Planet Hollywood at 322 Broadway. (Map link) It has two floors, both of which will be used by the restaurant. At street level there will be a restaurant, bar and three live-music stages. The second floor will house another bar, additional restaurant seating, and a “small concert hall with state-of-the-art lighting and sound system,” Bloom said. Total seating capacity is 350, with about 200 in the concert hall upstairs. A retail shop selling Buffett music and memorabilia will be included, as well. Live music will be featured daily. The café will be open from 11 a.m.-3 a.m. seven days a week, Bloom said, and the entertainment will include “a nightly showcase of newcomers.” Buffett’s band, the Coral Reefers, is based in Nashville, and there will be a special circular staircase in the restaurant “with a family tree” paying tribute to past and present members of the band, Bloom said. Many are Nashville residents. Construction will begin in late April, and will involve a “multimillion-dollar renovation” of the building “from top to bottom”.
Continued . . .
And this interview from Dave Paulson’s blog at the Tennessean –
The rumors were finally confirmed yesterday: Jimmy Buffett is bringing his Margaritaville restaurant chain to Nashville.
We had the chance to speak with Buffett Thursday morning about setting up shop in Nashville, and we also managed to sneak in a few questions about more musical matters — his history with Music City, his influence on modern country artists and why it took him years to schedule a new concert in Nashville. (He’s headed to the Sommet Center on Saturday, May 1.)
While we’re at it, we’ll go ahead and confirm another rumor: He’s a really nice guy.
Why bring Margaritaville to Nashville now?
“The thing of it is, it’s been on my radar for a long time. I thought that it would always be an obvious place, because I do have a little history in that town, and I also know that from an entertainment standpoint, it’s kind of interesting. I remember going back to my first days there when there wasn’t any place actually to play around there. I remember I played at a place, I think, called Ireland’s Steakhouse or something.
“To have as much of a music industry that there is there, I thought Nashville, quite honestly, was lacking in fun places to go, and then after all the time I’ve been spending in and out of there, and doing them in other places, I thought, ‘You know, we should have one of these in Nashville. I think this would work for people that just want to have fun, whether you’re working and whatever you’re doing in Nashville or whether you’re just passing through.’ I’ve always known, and it kind of goes off people’s radars, that Nashville is a very big tourist town.”
It seems like Nashville might have a bit of the best of both worlds, with music and tourism.
“That’s exactly what I thought. I thought, you know, it’s a unique situation, and I think I only could have done it from the perspective of spending, you know, I’ve been in and out of there, and I’ve known Nashville at all levels and I think that’s exactly right. It’s one of those places that’s got a great dichotomy and deserves to have some fun, and I’m excited about it.”
Will Nashville’s Margaritaville have a live music element — a stage?
“Well, you know what it is, we’re not really doing much, but what we tend to do with Margaritavilles is kind of guide them to what’s happening, whatever the local scene is, whether you’re in Grand Turk or Key West. I’m in Key West right now and I’m going down to the original one. They have their own sense of place, but it’s a business and you’ve got to run it effectively, and we’ve been pretty successful at it, and we’ve got great management.
“My guys that run the restaurant side of it, they know what they’re doing and they know locations. They know where to go. I had always told them, I said, ‘I think that, though you don’t know Nashville that well, there’s a great potential here from it just being Nashville,’ and like I said, the demographics and the dichotomy in general. Then you throw in the fact that it is a major tourist location, and you’ve got a major part of the music industry, not only country music.
“I know about all the people that have lived there who aren’t run through the aperture of country hit radio. It’s a very diverse place, and it’s a natural thing to put a stage in, because we have them everywhere else, and you never know who’s going to show up. But we don’t pursue name acts or anything like that. You let your customer dictate what they want, not what you want. I’ve always thought about that. There are people and places where you do what you like, but when you have paying customers, you’re supposed to do what they like. We’ve been pretty successful at that in all of our locations, and that’s the way we’ll approach it in Nashville.
You’ve been pretty visible in Middle Tennessee lately, between your Bonnaroo appearance and your CMT Crossroads taping.
“Well, I never left, you know? I’ve always had a foothold in there, and if you look back on it, quite honestly, I think I was the last kind of pop act to make it out of there that was just a pop act, that wasn’t a country crossover act, in a long time — up until the Kings of Leon. It’s kind of interesting.
“That was always one of my creeds, that there was a lot more music there than anybody in the music business was paying attention to, and I still believe that. It seems like there’s a lot of people living and working there that couldn’t get on country radio and are quite successful. It seems a shame that they weren’t pursued and signed and then had their careers come out of Nashville.
“It’s always been a pet peeve of mine, but that said, I’ve always known that the music and the players… and right now most of my band lives in Nashville, and this last album that we did, Buffet Hotel. It’s kind of funny, I think four or five of the last CMA albums of the Year, we’ve done in Shrimp Boat Studio in Key West. I didn’t work there this year. I went to Nashville and worked at Blackbird (Studios) and down in Muscle Shoals and over in London. I always find myself (there). It’s more about convenience when we’re rehearsing, and we’re coming back, actually, to play a show there this year.”
I saw that, and it’s been years since you’ve played in Nashville.
“Well, they closed the great outdoor amphitheater. What a stupid thing that was. I loved that place. What was that — was that Starlake?
Starwood. That was a great venue. We played that on a regular basis. It’s good that we get to come back. You know, we’re going inside, which is OK, they’re good shows, but I sure miss Starwood. That was always the regular one, and we haven’t been in Nashville in a while. It was a lot of fun doing Bonnaroo last year. I’m always in and out, and then that’s another reason I thought, knowing who’s in and out, I think people will like what we do at Margaritaville and it’ll do well there.”
Do you think you’ll be at Nashville’s Margaritaville more often than other locations, considering how often you’re in town?
“Well, you know, I’m there in a natural way, and it’s just something that I do. I try to, like I’ve always said, there really isn’t a Captain Morgan. It’s just something an ad guy made up. There’s a real me. I like people to know I’m still around. I’ll pop in. I kind of regularly visit them all. I like to. I like the success that we’ve had. Let’s face it, when you can have a phony-baloney job like this and still be singing, and still have restaurants all over the warm places of the world, places you like to go, that isn’t bad.”
Is there a chance you’ll give a surprise performance at the Nashville Margaritaville?
“There’s always that chance. Let’s just say the track record, if you look back, I think I’ve played every one of them. The only one I haven’t played in is Panama City, and I’m going to do that pretty soon. I’ve got to do it when I come in and out. And it’s fun, it’s fun to have people you see there and to go back and do them. I was a bar player from the beginning, and I still kind of think of myself as a bar player.”
As an artist who was outside of the box when you first arrived in Nashville in the ‘60s, have you been following the way the city and its music scene have evolved?
“I think it’s kind of interesting. It seems that what we did created kind of a unique experience, it’s obviously affected country music today. There are a lot of Jimmy Buffetts in Nashville (laughs), which is good. I was a Gordon Lightfoot fan. I wanted to sing and act like Gordon Lightfoot. I think it’s fine, and I take imitation as a great form of flattery, to tell you the truth.”
What do you think about the location of your restaurant in Nashville?
“I like being downtown. I mean, we’re on Broadway. We’re right near the Ryman. That was just luck, but I’m very excited about the location. When I come back to town, you know, in my days as a reporter for Billboard, I’d have to go there and cover the Opry. I love that whole club scene and when George Gruhn had GTR.
“I’ve got a lot of great memories of going downtown, so I was very excited when this whole thing came together and we could be there. And the fun thing is if you really think of what it is when we go to theme places, and people say, ‘What are you going to do?’ and I go, ‘Well, just look at what’s happening in the real world out there.’ The authentic thing that is happening is there’s a Nashville connection to Key West that is very obvious to a lot of the younger talent coming to Nashville these days, so I don’t have to invent that. There really is.
“There are songs there that kind of point it out, and we theme everything by, you know, we’ve got plenty of stuff to take for themes. We’ve got a ‘Cowboy in the Jungle’ bar and we’ve got a ‘License to Chill’ there, things that reflect things that we did there. I didn’t want it to just be something where you go and look at stuff on the wall. I wanted it to be interactive and for people to have fun there and feel a little tropical in Nashville.”
It sounds like, next to Key West, Nashville’s one of the most fitting cities for you to have a restaurant in.
“It’s definitely… You know, I always think of life as a song line which I’ve traveled down, and Nashville is definitely on my song line. It came at the right place and at the right time. We don’t try to force things, and an offer came up that looked kind of good, and all of a sudden the location was good. We’ve proven ourselves.
“This isn’t some flash-in-the-pan operation, either. We’re pretty established and people know us as a pretty thriving and a very well-run business. It’s exciting on that level that it’s not just Jimmy Buffett hanging a shingle out there and seeing if people show up. We kind of know what we’re doing with this, and a lot of thought goes into where our locations are, and like you said, it always, to me, was a natural. It just had to be the right time and the right place to do it.
“As I’ve always said, there’s plenty of great meat and three places to eat at in Nashville, but there’s only one Margaritaville.”