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VOL. 130 | NO. 14 | Thursday, January 22, 2015

Overton Square to Celebrate 45 Years

By Andy Meek

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Overton Square is preparing to throw a party that’s been 45 years in the making, the commemoration of a milestone for one of the city’s premier restaurant and entertainment districts that’s once again hopping with activity.

Overton Square is preparing to throw a 45th anniversary party timed in honor of the opening of TGI Friday’s on May 21, 1970.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

A 45th anniversary party for the square is in the works, planned for May 21 in honor of the opening of TGI Friday’s on May 21, 1970. And the square’s official Facebook page lists a few ways the public can participate in the celebration.

Among the things being sought are contact details for bands that played the square in its heyday and that could be approached about performing at the party the square is billing as a “reunion.”

The public also is being asked for any historic photos of the square and of celebratory moments enjoyed there that could be used in display and event marketing.

Something called a “storytellers corner” also will be set up at the party that will document stories, memories and experiences from years gone by at the square.

“After looking over some historical documents, I found that TGI Friday’s was the first official restaurant at the square and opened in May of 1970,” said Maime Shannon, director of public events at the square. “We have so many people interested in and passionate about the preservation of the square that I thought it would be awesome if we had a big party to celebrate our past, present and future.”

She proposed the idea to Loeb executive president Louis Loeb and Loeb marketing director Mary Caywood, and their answer was: go for it.

The event will, in a sense, serve as a kind of open house for the square, Shannon said, adding that at the moment it’s 97 percent occupied.

For the square to be near full occupancy is an indication of how Loeb has helped the district regain something of the status it once enjoyed as a major draw in the city, harkening back to the early days when it bustled with activity around shops, restaurants and other uses.

Among the recent successes, the past year saw the reopening of Lafeytte’s Music Room, ending its nearly four-decade closure and disappearance from the square. It reopened in the same space it once called home, with the club bringing back live music to the square where it again hosts a range of local and national acts.

The club was named after the late Lafayette Draper, a Memphis bartender who died in September at the age of 77.

Among the square’s other recent openings are eateries like farm-to-table burger restaurant Belly Acres; the German-themed restaurant Schweinehaus; Jimmy Ishii’s Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar. Piano bar The Zebra Lounge is another recent opening, as is Babalu Tacos & Tapas. Hattiloo Theater recently held a grand opening for its $3.3 million theater, housed in a 10,500-square-foot building at the square with two stages and rehearsal and table reading space.

PROPERTY SALES 92 480 7,835
MORTGAGES 115 551 8,785
BUILDING PERMITS 325 1,167 17,068
BANKRUPTCIES 39 311 5,159