A popular barbecue restaurant is expanding its local footprint to Downtown Memphis.
Central BBQ has filed a $150,000 building permit application with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement for the renovation of a commercial kitchen to a restaurant at 147 E. Butler Ave. in the South Main Historic Arts District.
The permit lists The Cockerham Co. as the contractor.
This will mark Central’s third location in Memphis, behind its original location at 2249 Central Ave. and second location at 4375 Summer Ave. The restaurant celebrated its 10th year in business Sunday, April 1.
“We hope to have a funky barbecue joint like Midtown, but it’s going to be in the South Main area,” said Roger Sapp, co-owner of Central BBQ, along with Craig and Elizabeth Blondis. “We’ll have a lunch business and a night business, and we’ll occasionally have a little music on the weekends like we do on Central on the deck. We’ll have friendly to-go stuff that will go out quick if you want it and I’ll try not to have any lines like we have on Central.”
Sapp has owned the warehouse at the southeast corner of Butler Avenue and St. Martin Street behind the National Civil Rights Museum since January 2003, when he purchased it for $175,000 from the Candace Alise McHand and Caprice Arianna McHand Trust, according to the Shelby County Register of Deeds.
In 2006, Clayton transferred the property in a quitclaim deed to CBBQ Properties LLC.
Built in 1938, the Class E warehouse spans 13,216 square feet, according to the Shelby County Assessor of Property. The 2011 appraisal was $179,900.
“Because of the fact that we own the warehouse, the cost is already fixed into our budget, so it’s not increasing our budget any for rental because we’re paying a note on it and it’s already figured into our total,” Sapp said. “All we’ve got to do is build the building out to suit us and make sure we make all of the codes happy, etc.”
Sapp said the warehouse is divided into two buildings, one of which is about 8,000 square feet and the other measuring slightly more than 3,000 square feet. The restaurant will take up the 8,000-square-foot space, and the remaining space will be used for storage.
“It should be about the same size and the same capacity that we’re in on Summer – around, say, 190 seats,” he said.
It’s not the only activity the South Main district has seen in recent months. Newly opened businesses in the G.E. Patterson Avenue/South Main area include Grawmeyer’s, Double J Smokehouse & Saloon and Rizzo’s Diner.
Central hopes to capitalize on the South Main momentum and increasing foot traffic. The concept is different from Double J, which opened in March.
“I know the people and they’re more like a honky tonk – they do have some barbecue, but they’re more like a bar,” Sapp said. “We’re going to be strictly a barbecue restaurant and you come in for good barbecue, ribs, nachos, the whole works.”
Parking is yet to be determined, but Central plans to try and work out a plan with the neighboring National Civil Rights Museum parking lot.
“We’re going to try to be friendly neighbors,” Sapp said. “It definitely would be a compliment to us if we could, if we could help them and they could use us. We’re just going to have to go with whatever is available in the South Main area, like other restaurants.”
Central BBQ is shooting for an opening within the next two months, if all goes well. In the meantime, the restaurant will debut its tie-dyed food truck this Saturday, April 7, at the Memphis Farmers Market at Central Station.
“It’s going to be the first main gig that we’re doing with it,” Sapp said. “We’re going to use it at the South Main farmers market every Saturday, serving local food and stuff. We’re involved with some of the vendors like Newman Farm, etc.”