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VOL. 127 | NO. 67 | Thursday, April 05, 2012

New Beale St. Banquet Space Boon for City

By Sarah Baker

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The recent news that the old Pat O’Brien’s space at 310 Beale St. will soon be filled by three private banquet halls and a corner bar has many event planners keyed up for future venue options.

General manager Bill Roberds, right, and Ed Zap check on the flaming fountain at 310 Beale St. The former Pat O’Brien’s is being renovated to include three banquet halls and a bar. 

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Bud Chittom and Preston Lamm, operating as Beale Holdings LLC, are renovating the 15,000-square-foot property to prepare it by May 1 for three banquet halls: the Napoleon Room, Josephine’s Garden and the Balcony on Beale.

The property will also include a 1,200-square-foot bar called Dancing Jimmy’s.

Chittom said the Napoleon Room will feature an oil portrait of the 1800s French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, symbolic of the start of a new empire.

“It kind of fits the motif of the Pat O’Brien’s build-out,” said Chittom, who is also an owner in various Beale Street restaurants, including Blue’s City Café and Riverfront Grille & Dockside Bar, the concept for the Beale Street Landing restaurant to open in July.

Josephine’s Garden will be the name of the interior courtyard space, or “home of the famous flaming fountain,” Chittom said. And the Balcony on Beale will be the upstairs space that overlooks the entertainment district.

Chittom said all three spaces will be booked for anything from corporate gatherings to charity events, just as he’s done in the past with his other four banquet space offerings on Beale.

“We’ll work with intracity facilitators who will do events traditionally sent through hotels, which we’ve been very competitive with the last number of years and have been highly successful at it,” Chittom said. “We want to make sure the convention has fun while they’re here. The same thing I did with Hunt Phelan – special events and a lot of weddings.”

Kevin Brewer, chief operating officer of Destination King, is bullish about the possibilities on the horizon for 310 Beale. It broadens his portfolio of options for corporate clients seeking event space, especially for groups of 400 or more.

“Before it closed, we used it quite often with corporate and convention groups that were looking at places to do off-site events from hotels,” Brewer said. “Most of your corporations are here for several days and they really want to get their people out in the city and have a chance to enjoy it, to let them have the opportunity to get a taste of the feel and the sights and the sounds of the city.”

Brewer said the new space is a step in the right direction in planning these types of gatherings. Since the Gibson Lounge closed, the only other spaces that can accommodate large crowds are limited to places like Club 152 and Alfred’s on Beale, as well as The Cadre Building and The Columns at One Commerce Square.

“It was a great step to add that element on Beale Street, but the long-term plan still needs to be in place,” Brewer said. “I still feel that the city needs to take a look at its convention offerings from a convention center standpoint and new hotel product standpoint. That’s ultimately what’s going to help lure more and more convention business to the city.”

Mirroring that point, Wayne Tabor, chairman of both the Metropolitan Memphis Hotel and Lodging Association and the city/county Convention Center Commission, said hotel and adequate meeting space go hand in hand when luring business to the city.

“We’re competing for convention business with cities all over the country and typically, when they bring groups in, they need hotel space to go along with that meeting space,” Tabor said. “You kind of have to have both of them to get it.”

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