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Daily Archives: March 25, 2010

Buffett’s Margaritaville kicks up some sand in Nashville

From The Tennessean:

Nashville Margaritaville’s plan for ‘Key West’ open windows rile history group

By G. Chambers Williams III • THE TENNESSEAN • March 25, 2010

Battle lines are being drawn again along Lower Broadway’s honky-tonk row — this time between parrot heads and preservationists.

At issue is the look of windows planned for a $10 million Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville Café to be built in the 300 block of Lower Broad. Developers say they want the windows to open to create Buffett’s signature Key West, Fla., feel and set the property apart from its down-home and neon country neighbors.

“The real sticking point is our operable storefront windows that can be opened in good weather, and they’re a key element of the Margaritaville Cafes,” said Mark Bloom, a principal in the Corner Partnership, which owns the three-story building and is paying to develop the beach-themed restaurant.

The Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission, which governs the look of buildings in the city’s historic district, wants a more traditional storefront with glass that doesn’t flop open.

Read the rest of the article here:

From the article, here is the building as it stand now, proudly on the corner of Broadway and 4th:

And here is an artist’s rendering of the property:

My thoughts? I’m a little agnostic on the matter. I understand the need to preserve the look of the historic district. But the façade isn’t original when it comes to the windows, signage, and window casings. If the only reason that the preservationists are up in arms is that the windows open like some many other restaurants in Nashville do (garage door-style windows are pretty common for restaurants that don’t have patios), I’d say that it’s a pretty silly thing to worry about, as long as when they are closed, they look like they belong. As long as the mechanics don’t look like they belong on an amusement park ride.

On the other hand, do we want to retro-fit a quasi-patio on something like Boston’s venerable Union Oyster House? I’m not sure if it makes a lot of sense if you’re using your historic district to drive tourism. If Margaritaville were going up a few blocks west in the Gulch, it would seem more appropriate course, it wouldn’t be nearly as successful either, because our tourist walking trade is perfect for the Buffett demographic and is more likely than not to already be a Parrothead. Plus, someone is quoted in the article that  it wouldn’t be Margaritaville without the windows. That is probably true. But I don’t know what she’s expecting – downtown in the summer tends to me stifling with wall-to-wall sidewalk tourists and stuffy heat. Not too many “tropical breezes” get through to downtown. It’s more like the wafting of stale beer and bad perfume. And the vista is more like a sea of cowboy hats, WalMart apparel, and stumbling drunken frat boys and long-limbed cowgirls in short, kicky skirts/black cocktail dresses and cowboy boots/go go boots. Even in the spring and fall, it’s not like you get to see the sun or feel the wind for very long. considering its southeast facing windows and blocking opposing building across the street, direct sunlight will be scarce.

It seems to me to be a sort of “fish-out-of-water” type establishment (if you allow me to borrow a pretty obvious analogy). Having said that, I can’t think of a better fit “commercially” for the area. If it is allowed to go in with open windows, or if the developers decide to cave in and put the restaurant in without the windows, it will be a smashing commercial success (as long as it’s managed properly, of course). Knowing one of the developers as I do, I suspect that the preservationists have the upper hand if they can keep pressure on the Zoning Commission because this guy knows business and is actually a partner in several hospitality ventures already. I think the promise of this restaurant is far more tantalizing than a “win”, although, the open windows might be a non-negotiable part of building the concept. It’s certainly a possibility.

Stay tuned – this could be interesting. I’m pretty sure that it won’t be too drawn out there. I suspect that there won’t be a whole lot of back and forth on this thing.

But I’ve been wrong before.