VOL. 132 | NO. 91 | Monday, May 8, 2017
Majestic Grille Owners to Take Over Beale Street Landing Restaurant
By Bill Dries
The owners of The Majestic Grille will take over operations of the restaurant at Beale Street Landing starting in June, the Riverfront Development Corp. announced Monday, May 8.
The owners of The Majestic Grille are set to take over the operations of Beale Street Landing’s restaurant under a six-month contract that starts in June. The plans include a new name and new menu, among other ideas.
(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
Deni and Patrick Reilly plan to operate the restaurant from June through Oct. 31 as a pop-up restaurant called “The Front Porch.”
“This is the view on the entire Mississippi River and it belongs to Memphis,” Deni Reilly said Monday in presenting the plan for the pop-up restaurant. The Reillys have offered some ideas to the RDC during the three years Beale Street Landing has been open and began talks this past winter about taking on the restaurant, which currently is named Riverfront Bar & Grill.
It will be built around the model of The Majestic Grille, their decade-old successful restaurant just up the bluff on the southern end of the Main Street Mall. But it will also incorporate other elements of service for those coming to the landing for a quick stop or a lunch in Tom Lee Park.
“What works we’ll know pretty quick,” Patrick Reilly told the RDC board.
RDC president Benny Lendermon says the restaurant has been a challenge because of the different reasons people come to the riverside.
“We’ve learned a ton of things that have been really helpful to allow them to build on,” he said. “We’ve got great baseline data on the kind of things that sell, when they sell, what the challenges are. It gives us a big step up on moving ahead with this project.”
In its current incarnation, Riverfront Bar & Grill is open Fridays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a small menu that comprises several sandwiches and salads, plus wine, beer and cocktails.
The RDC will pay the Reillys $50,000 as part of the six-month management agreement. Any improvement to the restaurant’s bottom line during that time will be split 50-50 between the Reillys and the RDC.
At the end of the six months, the Reillys’ goal is to have a more permanent plan going forward for the restaurant.
“At the end of the six months, we plan to have a working model,” Patrick Reilly told the RDC board, adding there will be a new menu.
“We are going to bring in some of our crew and some of our management team, and we’re going to create a new menu,” he said. “We plan to do a Monday-Friday lunch service to appeal to the Downtown businesses. … We’re going to start with an early evening to sundown small plates and cocktails. We’re not going to focus on a full-service steak-and-potato dinner but more of a ‘sit around and have a cocktail.’”
And The Front Porch plans a “quick-service option” for weekend park visitors looking for something to drink or a sandwich in the park.
“It’s one of the things that we’ve tried to tackle at The Majestic,” said Deni Reilly. “Even though that is just specifically a restaurant, we really wanted it to be someplace for everyone where you could come in and get a grilled cheese sandwich at the bar or come in on a date night and get a really fancy meal. This is a little broader than that because some people are just down there to fly a kite. Our goal is to tempt them. There is no place to buy water, to buy an apple, to buy a snack for your kid if you are at the water park.”
Former Napa Café general manager Beth Bomarito has been managing the restaurant since the landing opened in June 2014.
Prior to the opening, the RDC had an agreement with the restaurant group Beale & Second Inc., but that deal fell through because of parking issues.
The 52-space parking lot next to the landing has been free to those who dine at Riverfront Bar & Grill, but Lendermon says not enough people know about that and few realize the restaurant is open during the monthlong residency of the Memphis in May International Festival in Tom Lee Park.
“It doesn’t deny access to the restaurant, but it makes it look like it’s closed and it makes it hard to get to. So our sales go way down in May, which should be our biggest month by far,” Lendermon said.
The relationship between the landing, including the restaurant, as well as the riverboats that dock there and the festival is one of the points currently under discussion as part of the city’s still-forming riverfront plan.
“I’m not sure what happens between the festival and the site as the future goes on,” Lendermon said. “I think some things have to change a little bit. It’s difficult. If nothing else just the large number of boats docking there makes it difficult.”
The large overnight river boats with several hundred passengers at a time don’t dock at the landing during Memphis in May and instead dock at Greenbelt Park.
The high river level has made that difficult because the park’s parking lot is underwater as the American Queen docked there Monday and the Queen of the Mississippi arrives Friday.
“We think our relationship with Memphis in May now is better than it has ever been,” Lendermon said. “Neither one of us know what the real answer is.”