CHOOSE901 HOSTS DOWNTOWN COCKTAIL CONTEST IN CELEBRATION OF WORLD BARTENDER DAY Spirited by Old Dominick Distillery

MEMPHIS, TN—In partnership with Old Dominick Distillery and the Downtown Memphis Commission, Choose901 is gearing up to give local bartenders a chance to showcase their skills during the Choose901 Downtown Cocktail Contest.

From February 24th, which is recognized as World Bartender Day, until the end of March —cocktail connoisseurs working in Harbortown, South Main, North Main, Crosstown, and the Edge District neighborhoods are invited to demonstrate their creativity using Old Dominick spirits.

Be it a refreshing take on an Old Fashioned, a mule, a martini, a French 75, or the like—participants are encouraged to submit one recipe that represents their craft by no later than February 4th. Each submission will be vetted by representatives from Choose901 and Old Dominick..

During the month-long celebration, Memphians are encouraged to hit up each spot to enjoy a sip, and vote for their favorite cocktails. Winners will be crowned in categories such as: Best Overall, Best Name, Best Use of Garnish, Best Presentation, Best Gin Drink, Best Whiskey Drink, and Best Vodka Drink.

The culmination will come together on Thursday, March 31st during a special industry night hosted at Old Dominick Distillery where the winners will be announced, and discounted cocktails will be served to participants and fellow restaurant industry representatives starting at 12PM.

The Grand Prize for Best Overall Cocktail includes an award for the host restaurant and a prize for the participating bartender. Other prizes to be announced.

Beale Street Artcrawl Festival Returns Saturday

Vicky Love, self-proclaimed science geek and art collector, looked for an art crawl after moving back to Memphis from Nashville. Something not as big and glamorous as River Arts Fest, but a cozy, independent artist pop-up fair working symbiotically with local businesses. “I told myself, ‘They don’t have an art crawl in Memphis? I’m going to claim one,’” Love says.

A graduate of Tennessee State University in Nashville, Love holds a master’s degree in geospatial information systems, and she’s an artist and photographer. Her left and right brain work double duty. She is also the founder of Dear Music Nonprofit, supporting artists and creators with the creation and public performance of their work.

“Creating opportunities for others is my calling,” she says.

In 2018 and 2019, the Beale Street Artcrawl Festival was amazing, according to Love. Beale was packed. The crawl went online last year due to Covid. This year, the event is a hybrid, with an online presence and the live event on Saturday.

“It’s hard to step out and believe in yourself and your abilities,” says Love. “Artists believe in their work, but they still need to pay the bills. It was hard before the pandemic. It’s even harder now.”

Her pet project is getting the word out that Dear Music Nonprofit not only supports traditional artists but also encourages young artists like Thomias Calderon, who is on the autism spectrum.

“I want those young artists who test within the autism spectrum to continue to express themselves and discover more abilities.”

Beale Street Artcrawl Festival, Beale Street, Downtown Memphis, Saturday, Aug. 21, 1-7 p.m., free.

Hu. Hotel in Downtown Memphis set to reopen with two dining options

Hu. Hotel will reopen on Aug. 12. The Downtown Memphis boutique hotel has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area in March 2020. While the hotel’s flagship restaurant Hu. Diner is not scheduled to reopen yet, the hotel will reopen with two dining options.

Lucy’s Cafe will be adjacent to the lobby and will offer specialty coffees and updated takes on a number of cocktail classics, as well as baked goods, small bites, and sweet and savory treats. According to a news release, Lucy’s offers “nostalgic food and drinks that are driven with Memphis soul, all while highlighting local ingredients made with Southern flavors and techniques.” It is being touted as “a cozy and cool place to meet, talk or work for a while, Lucy’s welcomes guests of the hotel, neighbors, locals and those just passing by to pop in and stay for a while.”

Hu. Hotel’s rooftop bar has received a makeover as well.

Memphis hotel projects poised to tap into pent-up travel demand

Chuck Pinkowski, owner of hotel consulting firm Pinkowski and Co., keeps track of local projects coming online or in the works in the metro area’s hotel pipeline. According to his list, as of April 2021, there are 47 properties — consisting of more than 6,200 rooms — in the Memphis hotel market pipeline through 2025.

In terms of areas, Downtown Memphis is listed as having the most proposed hotel projects, with 14 properties and 2,688 rooms.

Tom Lee Park Renovation Begins

The $60-million renovation of Memphis’ signature downtown park got two critical green lights: one from Mayor Strickland’s Riverfront Steering Committee, the other from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Tom Lee Park sits on a 30-acre berm that helps stabilize the bluff along the Mississippi River at Memphis. Structural changes must be approved by the Corps of Engineers. Tuesday, July 20, 2021, the Corps issued the 408 permit needed to make so many of the wonderful features seen in renderings possible.

The Mayor’s Riverfront Steering Committee also approved the design and the Strickland administration made an important decision.

Minority-led group proposes $50M hotel and high-end condo project in Pinch District

A minority-led group has plans for a roughly $50 million mixed-use development in the Pinch District. Members of Blues Note LLC told MBJ that the group intends to develop the Blues Note Hotel — a 100-room property — at 463 N. Front St., as well as a 40-unit high-rise condominium.

The North Front Street property is situated within walking distance of the Pyramid. MBJ reported on May 11, that Ashaif Enterprises purchased the property at 463 N. Front St. for $715,000, according to a transaction filed with the Shelby County Register of Deeds.

The Blues Note Hotel, aimed at being an independently owned and operated entertainment and destination property, proposes an array of amenities, including:

  • 100 guest rooms
  • 40 condos with floor-to-ceiling glass and patios
  • Retail and office space
  • Steakhouse restaurant
  • Coffee shop
  • Lobby bar and live music stage
  • Conference and meeting space, with a ballroom
  • Custom soundproof music studio
  • Spa and salon
  • Workout facility
  • Rooftop guitar shape hotel pool with stage and lounge
  • Private condo pool with lounge
  • Custom trolley station
  • Parking garage with valet

Bill McCrary, principal developer and project manager for Blues Note, didn’t give a timeline on when he expected construction to begin or when it would be completed.

While due diligence has been done, Blues Note is still in discussion with city planning department officials on details such as as building layout, McCrary said.

He indicated that, once completed, the Blues Note Hotel would have about 100 employees.

“We are going to have [an] above-average pay rate or way above the pay rate of what hotels are normally paying employees,” he said.

McCrary said the Memphis project would be the first of what they envision as a similar concept coming to other cities.

“What better place to kick off a hotel, condos, and mixed-use [brand] called Blues Note [than] in Memphis? And the beginning of a national franchise; we are in talks with cities like New Orleans, Miami, and Detroit for a Blues Note,” he said.

With the condos, Reginald Fentress, Blues Note’s development coordinator, said the City of Memphis will also benefit.

“They are going to generate revenue to the city tax base every year, which is a win to the city,” Fentress said.

According to McCrary, the $50 million price tag on the project could increase, based on a high level of infrastructure for the building. The group is working with local, state, and federal officials to build above the existing Trolley track,” McCrary said.

Miss Tenn. competition comes to Memphis

Miss Tennessee competition comes to Memphis

The Miss Tennessee competition is back this year after 2020’s COVID-19 pause — and it’s in Memphis.

Lydia Fisher sits in a carriage during the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Competition's Show Us Your Parasol parade on Beale Street, Sunday, June 27, 2021 in Memphis, TN.

Thirty Miss Tennessee representatives from across the state have descended upon the Bluff City for rehearsals, public appearances and three nights of competition, our Bob Mehr reports.

The competition takes place July 1-3 at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Memphis.