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Old Posted Mar 6, 2010, 1:07 AM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Morgan Freeman’s club finds ground zero at former Pat O’Brien’s
Memphis Business Journal - by Andy Ashby

By April, the former Pat O’Brien’s space on Beale Street should be ground zero for blues in Memphis. Ground Zero Blues Club is signing a lease there, moving from a 5,800-square-foot space at 158 Lt. George W. Lee Ave. to the 13,000-square-foot building at 310 Beale Street. “Our team is so excited,” says Natasha Huffstickler, managing partner of Ground Zero Blues Club. “It will be great to be a blues club on Beale Street, the home of the blues.”

William Luckett and actor Morgan Freeman founded the first Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Miss., in May 2001. They opened the second in Memphis in May 2008. This new space, which will have a juke joint theme throughout, will be almost three times larger than its current location. The former piano bar on the east side of the entrance will have a dining room and band area. A smaller room west of the entrance will have a sports bar focus. “Also, there is a lot of patio space which will have additional bands and live music,” Huffstickler says.

Ground Zero plans to use the building’s upstairs area for one of its niches: private parties and large events. The company has hosted events for everyone from Major League Baseball executives to the University of Memphis. “We’ve done so much of that, we’ve had to turn people away because we didn’t have enough room in our current location,” Huffstickler says. The company will also now be able to handle larger functions, like wedding receptions, without closing down its regular operations downstairs. The second floor has its own bar and an elevator. It can hold hundreds of people and can be sectioned off for smaller events. The second floor includes a 50-seat patio with views of Beale Street. Ground Zero has hired Oxy-3, Inc., to develop a marketing plan.

The company is moving its current staff of 15 employees to the new location and plans to hire additional servers, bartenders and kitchen staff. This lease is part of the latest effort to improve Beale Street between Rufus Thomas and Fourth Street, which includes Hard Rock Cafe, People’s Billiard Club and Eel-Etc. “This is part of our plan to redevelop that end of Beale Street,” John Elkington, CEO of Performa Entertainment Real Estate, Inc., says. “That whole end is going to be completely different.” Huffstickler says Nick Harmeier, sales and marketing manager at Hard Rock Cafe, has already reached out about partnering in events.
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