Neely’s Has Plans to Revamp Jefferson Store

By Sarah Baker

Pat and Gina Neely, Memphis barbecue entrepreneurs and celebrity chef couple from “Down Home with the Neelys” on the Food Network, have closed the two Memphis Neely’s Bar-B-Que restaurants, FedExForum concessions and catering business.

All Neely’s Memphis operations ceased Friday, Oct. 5, with no set re-open date. Gina Neely said the “heart-felt, gut-wrenching decision” to close was due to family health issues and hectic schedules.

“We’re not giving up on Memphis, we love Memphis, and we want the best for Memphis,” Neely said. “But we also want to be represented in the best way that we can. Sometimes, you’ve got to step back and take a look at that and make sure that it’s executed properly. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re not running away. This is home.”

Neely said many locals are unaware that they have a house here. They do spend a good bit of time traveling for their show, appearances and also their New York restaurant, Neely’s Barbecue Parlor, that they opened in a partnership in July 2011.

“We have one room where you’re just sitting on the back porch,” Neely said. “Because I grew up in an era when my great-great grandmother used to have a parlor in the house. You would sit and drink sweet tea and you get the best gossip you could ever get. The restaurant there is centered around that.”

She hopes to re-create a similar concept in Downtown Memphis’ Jefferson Avenue location.

“I want to represent something that’s a little higher scale – that doesn’t mean pricing, but just the atmosphere,” Neely said. “When you go in, you feel good about it, it’s a fabulous place, you get a great cocktail, you’re hearing great music, you have a chance to sort of wind down.”

Neely is in early talks with Barry Yoakum of archimania, as well as groups in New York and Atlanta, on new design schemes.

“I want to (remove) the old carpet. … I really want it to be a fabulous place when it opens so that people when they come in will say, ‘Oh my gosh, this does not even look like the same restaurant,’” Neely said. “I want a little patio on the side because we don’t really have many patios in Memphis. I like sitting outside on a beautiful day, it relaxes me.”

The couple is concentrating more on the Jefferson location, the original shop since February 1988, rather than the Mt. Moriah Road location.

“Mt. Moriah, you have to realize, when they opened (Tenn.) 385, a lot of that traffic just passes over,” Neely said.

Both Gina and Pet Neely also sit on the board of Victorian Village Inc., and find the upcoming plans of park renovation and potential medical student housing promising for family-oriented eateries in the area.

“We want to open as soon as possible, but our key here is to get it done and to get it done right,” Neely said.

The Neely’s Nashville location is owned by Pat Neely’s brother Tony Neely and will remain open.