VOL. 127 | NO. 60 | Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Dancing Jimmy’s to Open on Beale
By Sarah Baker
Beale Street’s former Pat O’Brien’s space is being replaced with a new concept from some of the street’s prime stakeholders.
Bud Chittom and Preston Lamm, operating as Beale Holdings LLC, are renovating the 15,000-square-foot property at 310 Beale St. to prepare it for three banquet halls and a 1,200-square-foot corner bar called Dancing Jimmy’s by May 1.
The namesake of the new bar, which will seat about 40, is a tribute to a late friend of Chittom’s who danced in Overton Square in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Dancing Jimmy was a buddy of mine that would go around to the bars and he liked to dance by himself,” Chittom said. “He was very intelligent, but he didn’t stay on one subject long. He was just a cool guy that everybody kind of admired; he was kind of like the party-starter.”
The banquet spaces will be called the Napoleon Room, Josephine’s Garden – “home of the famous flaming fountain” – and the Balcony on Beale, Chittom said. All three will be under an umbrella name that’s yet to be determined.
“There’s such a demand for banquet space on Beale that’s not in a hotel,” Chittom said. “Sometimes you may see the veranda open, but I would speculate that most weekends, that stuff will be booked. Between Preston and myself, we have access to six kitchens on Beale. So catering is not a problem; we’ll accommodate all of that stuff very well.”
Chittom is an owner of Blue’s City Café and the principal partner in Beale and Second Inc., the group behind the Beale Street Landing restaurant to open in July. Lamm is president of River City Management Group and an owner of Rum Boogie Café and King’s Palace. Both Chittom and Lamm will manage 310 Beale. There are additional partners involved in the transformation, including John Riley and Jimmy Riley of Riley Paving, as well as Chuck Oswalt and others.
The Beale Street entertainment district is owned by the city of Memphis, but the building at 310 is not. It’s the only structure built in the district since its reopening in 1983; Pat O’Brien’s was built on land that at one time was the site of the old Palace Theater.
“It’s on a land lease,” Chittom said. “The city owns the property underneath it.”
Past occupiers of the two-story building include New Orleans-based Pat O’Brien’s, which closed in August 2008, and most recently Ground Zero Blues Club.
A successful Beale Street user must possess three attributes, said John Elkington, president of Performa Entertainment Real Estate – the private company that manages Beale for the city. Those are strong financials, a solid concept and a history of business in the area – all of which are true for Chittom and Lamm.
“The philosophy on Beale Street has always been you have to have businesses that are well-capitalized, they have to have good concepts, they basically need to kind of reflect this community and the culture and history and music of this community,” Elkington said. “When you shy away from that, it becomes very difficult to succeed.”
While it’s challenging to take a building that was designed for a specific use and make it work for something else, Elkington said, Performa is encouraged by the fact that two veteran people that have had ownership on Beale Street for many years are involved.
“It’s a challenging thing and we hope for the best, obviously,” Elkington said. “You’re talking about people who have been involved in Beale Street – Preston Lamm’s been involved for 26 years and Bud Chittom’s probably been involved for 15 years. So all of that we think is a very positive thing.”
Elkington said the half of the street where 310 Beale is housed has “always had problems,” but Performa is working with the Memphis Police Department to open a sub station on the corner of Fourth and Beale.
“That area, especially with Crave and all of the different places that have been across the street, have not helped that end of Beale Street very much,” Elkington said. “We think with the Police Department being there, and having kind of a stable group of owners for the old Pat O’Brien’s, will help tremendously.”