Business Brief

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wharton, Wingstop, and Rick Ross

Posted By on Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 3:15 PM

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Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is slated to give a key to the city to Rick Ross Wednesday at one of the rapper/chicken wing magnate's newly opened Wingstop locations, in perhaps what will be one of the most Memphis things that has ever happened.

Ross announced earlier this week that he was expanding his franchise by 25 locations. Two new Wingstop locations in Memphis have brought the franchise total here to five. The Union Avenue location opened in June and the Bartlett Boulevard location opened in May.

“Not only is it growth for us, but also growth for the community, providing jobs, good food and a family environment for the people of that city," Ross said in a statement. "We definitely look forward to continuing to help grow the Memphis area.”

Wharton is slated to "bestow Ross with a symbolic key to the city honoring the economic and community contributions the Wingstop locations have provided for the city." That transaction will come at a grand opening event at the new Union location Wednesday.

"It’s a huge honor for me and my team to have Mayor Wharton give me the key to the city," Ross said. "In every city we open a Wingstop, it is our goal to make a positive impact."

Ross, the Grammy nominated, platinum-selling rapper, was born in Coahoma County, Miss., in 1976.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Uber and Lyft to Receive Cease-and-Desist From City

Posted By on Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 5:20 PM

A Lyft car with its trademark pink mustache.
  • Shannon O'Daniel
  • A Lyft car with its trademark pink mustache.

The city of Memphis will be issuing a cease-and-desist order for ridesharing services Uber and Lyft until the two companies get city permits to operate.

The companies first arrived in April and operate through smartphones, removing the need for cash being exchanged in the car itself.

Late last month, the rideshare services first hit a snag in the city when the Memphis International Airport told Uber and Lyft that, without permits, drivers would not be allowed to pick up or drop off passengers.

Cities around the country have seen pushback from taxicab associations and unions toward the rideshare companies. One campaign called “Who’s Driving You?” is pushing for regulations on competitors as an initiative of the Taxicab, Limousine, and Paratransit Association. Dave Sutton is the spokesperson for the campaign.

“Uber and Lyft force their way into markets without taking the proper steps to ensure the safety of the public,” Sutton said. “Part of their business model is based on stress-testing rules and regulations and seeing if a city will simply roll over and allow them to ply their illegal services as an unlicensed taxi company.”

Both Uber and Lyft have local and federal background and vehicle checks — as cars have to be 2000 models or newer — as well as a five-star rating system that differentiates itself from a typical taxicab company. If a driver’s average rating falls below four stars, the driver is blacklisted.

Drivers of both companies have been pushing back on social media like Facebook to get users to write to Mayor A C Wharton and express concern over the cease-and-desist.

Shannon O’Daniel is a driver for Lyft who is leading a campaign on her Facebook to educate people, including the mayor, on the rideshare services.

“The city really needs to take the time to inform themselves about Lyft’s policies and procedures before presuming anything about the drivers or the company,” O’Daniel said. “Lyft and other companies like it have taken the rideshare movement into the 21st century. When cab companies refuse to move forward and adjust their procedures to reflect the times, rest assured someone else will. And they have.”

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Uber and Lyft Services Not Allowed at Memphis Airport

Posted By on Fri, Jun 27, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Lyft cars have pink moustaches.
  • Lyft cars have pink moustaches.

Memphis International Airport passengers hoping to catch a cheap ride from new-to-Memphis, peer-to-peer ride-sharing networks Uber or Lyft might be in for a surprise.

For now at least, both Uber and Lyft are not allowed to pick up passengers from Memphis International Airport. According to Memphis-Shelby Airport Authority general counsel Brian Kuhn, the companies, which offer cheaper fares than traditional cabs and operate through smart phone apps, would first have to get a special permit from the city of Memphis before they could operate at the airport.

"Once a carrier or business has one of those type of permits, they come to us and have an agreement with us to come on our property on our commercial drive. This is for all taxis, limosines, buses, and MATA buses, all the shuttles for hotels and motels, all the people who pick people up and take them somewhere for hire," Kuhn said.

That agreement with the airport also includes a fee that Lyft or Uber would have to pay to use the facility's lower commercial drive to pick up passengers. There is no agreement or fees for Uber or Lyft to drop off passengers, however.

Since the companies are so new here — both began operating in Memphis this year — Kuhn said he isn't sure if they would be required to get the same kind of city permit that regular taxes get or if the city would have to come up with a new permit.

"In the case of Uber and Lyft, they're a brand new concept from the traditional taxi cab concept. We're trying to look for how we should treat those type of companies in a dependable and safe fashion," Kuhn said. "Memphis may have to come up with a new permit since this a new concept. They're still struggling with that, so we're waiting to see what type of permit they'll come up with, whether it's the old or new type, to get this business going."

In the meantime, Kuhn said he has been asked to look into how other airports in cities with Uber and Lyft are dealing with the ride-sharing services.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nuclear Response Center to Open This Month

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Inside the Regional Response Center in Phoenix.
  • Nuclear Energy Institute
  • Inside the Regional Response Center in Phoenix.

The Memphis Regional Response Center will open here on Friday, June 27 close to the former Memphis Defense Depot on Dunn Ave.

The center is the second opened this year by the nuclear energy industry to deliver emergency equipment to nuclear energy facilities in response to extreme events. The first was opened in Phoenix in May.

“The regional response centers will further increase the industry’s preparedness for severe challenges, regardless of their causes,” said Tony Pietrangelo, chief nuclear officer for the Nuclear Energy Institute [NEI]. “This is another example of the industry’s commitment to learn the lessons from the Fukushima accident in Japan and apply those lessons to enhance safety across the U.S. nuclear energy industry."

The centers will be able to deliver a full set of portable safety equipment, radiation protection equipment, electrical generators, pumps and other emergency response equipment to an affected nuclear power plant within 24 hours, according to the NEI.

The two response centers have cost $40 million to build and make operational. They'll cost about $4 million to operate each year. The cost for the entire project will be shared by U.S. nuclear companies.

Truck Stop Restaurateurs Withdraw Appeal for Temporary Use Permit

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 10:48 AM

A shot of the planned interior dining space at Truck Stop
  • A shot of the planned interior dining space at Truck Stop

Local restauranteur Taylor Berger and attorney Michael Tauer, business partners in the planned Truck Stop restaurant to be located at Central and Cooper, have withdrawn their application to appeal for a temporary use permit to operate food trucks on their site while they await construction permits.

The pair had hoped to operate a bare-bones food truck court at the Central and Cooper location since it will be at least a year before the Truck Stop's permanent building, to be created from cargo vessels, will be built and open for business.

They applied for a temporary use permit to operate the court this summer, but that was denied
by the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Code Enforcement. Berger said last Friday that they were planning to appeal the code enforcement office's decision at a Board of Adjustment meeting on June 25th. But Berger and Tauer have now withdrawn their application to appeal.

Once the construction permit process is complete, the original plan — with the permanent structure, new sidewalks, and street trees — approved by the Board of Adjustment in January will move forward. Truck Stop will operate as a hybrid food truck court/restaurant concept. Food will be served from both the permanent Truck Stop building and a rotating cast of local food trucks. Customers can dine inside or on a large patio on the back of the property.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Bar Headed for Overton Square

Posted By on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 at 10:25 AM

Inside the Zebra Lounges Chicago location.
  • Zebra Lounge
  • Inside the Zebra Lounge's Chicago location.

Chicago's iconic Zebra Lounge will open a second location in Memphis later this year.

The piano bar is slated to reside in Overton Square at 2114 Trimble Place. The location faces south toward the Hatiloo Theater, situated between Cooper and Florence. A building permit for the bar was requested Monday in a project valued at more than $157,000 to build out a "lounge" but no kitchen.

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"The bar will feature local Memphis musicians every day of the year, adding to the ongoing revival of Midtown Memphis," says the bar's web site.

The original Chicago location will celebrate its 85th anniversary at the beginning of July. The bar's website says its founding in 1929 makes it the second-oldest bar in Chicago.

The Chicago Zebra Lounge keeps late hours. It's open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Monday through Friday, from 7:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturdays, and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays.

For more information, check out the Zebra Lounge website.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Brewery’s Future Remains Uncertain, But Beer Garden Exceeded Expectations

Posted By on Mon, Jun 9, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Before the team behind Untapped, the six-week pop-up beer garden at the Tennessee Brewery, kicked off the event’s first weekend in April, co-sponsor Michael Tauer wondered if anyone would even come.

“[Untapped co-sponsor] Taylor [Berger] and I had this moment before the project started when we said, ‘Hopefully, at least our friends will show up.’ We were just blown away by how many people came and brought their friends and people from out of town,” said Tauer, a local attorney who is also partnering with Berger on the proposed Truck Stop food truck court for the Cooper-Young neighborhood.

Untapped, which featured local craft beer, food trucks, and occasional acoustic music acts, was intended as a temporary “pre-vitalization” event to showcase the possibilities for the long-abandoned Tennessee Brewery building, which is under contract to be demolished this summer if its not purchased before then.

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  • Image Courtesy of Tennessee Brewery Untapped

The event, which ended June 1st, drew hundreds of people from all over the city. Berger said he started the event with 10 staff members but had to more than double that amount to keep up with demand for beer and food.

“I know how to run a restaurant, but this was like running a festival,” Berger said. “There were so many people, and each week, we had to ramp up and make changes. At its peak last Saturday, I had a dozen bartenders scrambling to keep up with the crowds, and they were just pouring draft beer, which is a very fast thing. But we were still getting in the weeds because we had hundreds of people wanting to drink beer.”

“We had no idea what to expect, but on the first weekend, we ran out of cups. We ran out of beer,” said Doug Carpenter of public relations firm Doug Carpenter & Associates, who also co-sponsored the event. “Each week, the crowd was larger than the week prior all the way to the end. The response was remarkable.”

So remarkable that Berger and Tauer want to keep it going. They applied for another special event permit to keep Untapped open on weekends at least until the brewery’s demolition date. But that permit was rejected by the Office of Construction Code Enforcement because, according to Administrator Allen Medlock “special event and temporary permits have prescribed time limitations and a specific number of times per year they may be conducted.” The partners would also need several additional permits from other agencies to continue the event.

But Berger said they are exploring other options. If the event were to continue, Carpenter and co-sponsor Andy Cates of Colliers International would not be involved. The future of the brewery building remains uncertain, but Untapped did bring about more inquiries from potential investors.

The event wasn’t without its detractors though. Jennifer Edwards, who owns a condo at The Lofts building next door to the brewery, said the event was too noisy.

“The noise level just from the sound of people was very invasive, particularly for those of us who have outdoor spaces,” Edwards said. “I’m not against development, but if there is going to be anything like that there in the future, it needs a much tighter occupancy limit in the courtyard.”

Edwards said the Lofts residents were split on their feelings about Untapped. Some supported. Some didn’t. Don Hutson, president of the South Bluffs Homeowners Association, which represents the interest of many homeowners near the brewery, said most residents there were supportive.

“The vast majority of our residents are for anything that is good for downtown,” Hutson said. “We had a couple people who live on the north end close to the event that complained that it was too noisy, and we had some traffic issues. But it's commerce, and that’s a good thing. When I moved to South Bluffs 20 years ago, there wasn’t much going on down here. We were pleased to see some things happening.”

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Temporary Use Permit for Truck Stop Hits Snag

Posted By on Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 8:16 PM

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Local restauranteur Taylor Berger and attorney Michael Tauer, business partners in the planned Truck Stop restaurant to be located at Central and Cooper, had hoped to bring food trucks to their site before construction begins on the permanent restaurant structure. But the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Code Enforcement has put the brakes on that plan for now.

The two won approval from the Memphis and Shelby County Board of Adjustment for their hybrid food truck/restaurant concept in January. But they're still awaiting permits before they can begin construction of the main building, which will be created using cargo vessels. The waiting process will mean the Truck Stop's building wouldn't be finished and open for business for about a year.

Berger said they had hoped to be approved for this temporary permit to operate food trucks on a concrete slab with a patio while they wait for construction permits.

"Basically, all we are asking permission for is to park [food] trucks on-site while we wait for permits," Berger said. "Hopefully, we will have all our permits in place to start building this winter, but it seems a shame to let that lot stay empty during the [food] truck season."

Berger said they plan to appeal the code enforcement office's decision at a Board of Adjustment meeting on June 25th.

If they win the appeal, the temporary permit would allow them to park food trucks there this summer. If approved, Berger said they plan to run electricity, add seating, and possibly sell beer if permits allow.

Once the Truck Stop's building is constructed, the concept would include one permanent Truck Stop food truck and a rotating cast of other local food trucks that would park on the lot for a few hours at a time.

The original Truck Stop plan drew concerns from some neighbors over issues of parking and traffic congestion. Berger and Tauer held several neighborhood meetings in the Cooper-Young area and tweaked plans to ease some of those concerns. Others had concerns over the restaurant's industrial design.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Victory Bicycle Studio to Add New Location

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 10:49 AM

Changes are ahead for Victory Bicycle Studio, including a second location, after the Broad Avenue bicycle shop was purchased by co-founder Clark Butcher.

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  • Victory Bicycle Studio

Victory opened nearly four years ago and was started by Butcher, a competitive bicycle racer and coach, and veteran bicycle mechanic Robert Taylor. Butcher said he finalized the purchase of Taylor’s interest in the business nearly two weeks ago in a deal that was “as amicable as they come.”

Butcher is now finalizing plans to open a second Victory store. The new location will be called Victory Bike Shop and will focus on bikes with lower prices than those at Victory Bicycle Studio.

“(Victory Bike Shop) will be more family-style shopping,” Butcher said. “(Victory Bicycle Studio) will be more for bike enthusiasts and the other shop will still have the very crisp and refined look but it will be for everybody.”

Butcher said he’s considering two locations for the new bike shop, one on Broad Avenue close to the existing Victory store and another in an undisclosed part of Midtown.

Butcher will also soon launch a new website for Victory, which will put the store’s hand-picked inventory online. Also, Butcher is working on a plan to launch a consulting firm catering to bicycle shops.

“My big thing is focusing on the future,” Butcher said, “and I’m ready to hit the gas.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New Name Unveiled for Memphis Hospital System

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 3:55 PM

The new Regional One Health logo on a shuttle van.
  • Toby Sells
  • The new Regional One Health logo on a shuttle van.

The Med is not “The Med” anymore.

The health care system that has operated as the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, or commonly called “The Med,” is now called Regional One Health. News of the name change and re-branding effort came at an unveiling event Wednesday.

Regional One Health will be the umbrella group for the system’s acute care hospital, stand-alone specialty centers, and primary care clinics.

The Downtown hospital will now be called the “Regional Medical Center” instead of the “Regional Medical Center at Memphis.” The specialty centers will be renamed and re-branded, becoming the Regional One Extended Care Hospital, for example. Finally, the once-called “Loop Clinics” will be renamed to reflect their location - the Hollywood Primary Care Center, for example.

“The main thing we want to evoke is our coverage area,” said Regional One CEO Dr. Reginald Coopwood of the name change. “The ‘one’ implies that we’re one team, one family. And it’s not ‘health care,’ it’s ‘health.’ We’re looking to improve people’s health and not just take care of people who are sick.”

The effort is a big move for a health care system on the verge of closing some of its key components about five years ago because of financial woes. New management and some new funding mechanisms have brought stability and new dollars to invest in the operations of the system.

Inside one of Turner Towers new surgery suites.
  • Toby Sells
  • Inside one of Turner Tower's new surgery suites.

For example, Regional One leaders showed off the newly finished and opened floors of the renovated Turner Tower. The building is on the hospital’s campus but went largely unused for years because of scarce capital funds. The $40 million project has brought the system a new outpatient surgery center, and a long-term acute care center. Both are expected to make the Regional One more competitive in the Memphis medical marketplace.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Midtown Nursery Lands New Site, Truck Stop Work Begins

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 3:12 PM

Midtown Nursery has started work on its new, temporary location at the corner of McLean and Madison on the former site of Neil's, the Midtown bar, before it caught fire in 2011.

Midtown Nursery new, temporary location at McLean and Madison
  • Midtown Nursery Facebook page
  • Midtown Nursery new, temporary location at McLean and Madison

The nursery became the center of a low-heat debate late last year when they were told they had to vacate their former site at the corner of Cooper and Central. The corner's owner, Loeb Properties, leased the site to Chiwawa/Yolo/Tamp & Tap restaurateur Taylor Berger and attorney Michael Tauer for their Truck Stop restaurant/food truck hybrid concept. Midtown Nursery owners claimed they had a handshake agreement with Loeb for a lease extension at the site. But Loeb had indeed signed a new lease with Berger and Tauer.

The nursery closed its former location at Cooper and Central earlier this month. The company plans to have the new nursery open by March, according to its Facebook page.

"We hope to find a permanent location soon, but until then we will be (at Madison and McLean) come spring," the company said in a Facebook post. "We can't say thank you enough for your encouragement and support! See you again in March!"

The Truck Stop
  • The Truck Stop

Berger and Tauer won city approval for The Truck Stop in January from the Board of Zoning Appeals. Work has been underway on the site since. A fence has been erected around the site and heavy machines are tearing up the old parking lot.

Wind Power Project Could Bring $259 Million Investment to Shelby County

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 12:49 PM

A Clean Line wind farm in Oklahoma
  • Clean Line Energy Partners LLC
  • A Clean Line wind farm in Oklahoma

Plains and Eastern Clean Line LLC wants to invest $259 million in an area around Millington for a hub that would bring wind energy from Oklahoma to Tennessee.

The company has asked for an 11-year tax break from the Memphis Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis & Shelby County. The request will come before that board during its meeting Wednesday, according to an updated agenda released Monday morning.

The proposed Shelby County project includes $9.6 million for transmission lines, $1.2 million for the the purchase of 208 acres of land, the $10 million construction of a 30,000-square-foot converter facility, and the $239 million purchase of converter equipment, according to EGDE documents.

The local converter station would be part of a overall project by Plains and Eastern Clean Line to purchase wind energy from Oklahoma, and run it along a 700-mile, 600-kilovolt electric transmission line to tie in to the Tennessee Valley Authority electricity grid.

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The project would create 16 new jobs with an average salary of $56,875, according to EDGE.

The facility would deliver more than 3,500 megawatts of electricity.

The company's application says they are looking at the Shelby County site as well as a site in Tipton County.

The 11-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal would abate 41 percent of the taxes on the facility, according to EDGE. The site now brings $2,975 in annual property taxes for the county. If approved, the new project would yield about $36.2 million in new tax revenue for Shelby County during the 11-year term of the deal.

If approved by federal regulators the project is expected to begin construction in 2016 and
take two years to complete.

Monday, February 10, 2014

City, County Leaders Join Kellogg's Lockout Debate

Posted By on Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy holds up a box of Kelloggs Frosted Flakes during a Monday news conference.
  • Toby Sells
  • Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy holds up a box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes during a Monday news conference.

Memphis and Shelby County leaders are the latest public figures to join the fight for workers locked out of the Memphis Kellogg’s factory because of a labor dispute.

Memphis City Council members Lee Harris and Janis Fullilove and Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy said Monday they’ll support the workers with resolutions before their perspective legislative bodies. Also, they’ll physically join the picket camp next Wednesday outside the gates of the factory on Airways if the matter has not been resolved.

Locked-out Kelloggs workers joined city and county leaders for news conference Monday at Memphis City Hall.
  • Toby Sells
  • Locked-out Kellogg's workers joined city and county leaders for news conference Monday at Memphis City Hall.

The locked out workers are represented by the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union. But support of the workers outside the union has come now from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and the National Action Network, which has promised to summon the Rev. Al Sharpton for a national debate if the issue hasn’t been resolved by February 22.

Harris called the lockout a “terrible situation” and compared it to the negotiations on the Affordable Care Act months ago that led to what he said was the Republican-led shutdown of the federal government.

“It wasn’t productive then and it’s not productive now,” Harris said.

Mulroy said Kellogg’s wants to convert its full-time labor force to part-time workers who would not get any health care or pension benefits and would be paid less than full-time workers. He said the lock out was a negotiating tactic used to “strong-arm” workers to “sign away their fates” and that Kellogg’s is not being a “good corporate citizen.”

During a Monday news conference, Mulroy produced a box of Frosted Flakes, a Kellogg’s cereal.

“If you ask me what I think about (Frosted Flakes), I’d say 'they’re great,'” Mulroy said mimicking the famous catch phrase by Kellogg’s mascot Tony the Tiger. “But they don’t taste so great when I realize what’s happening in order to make this stuff.”

The union representing the workers awaits a decision on a formal complaint it filed against the company with the National Labor Relations Board. They petitioned the federal employee rights board to end the lock out because they consider it an unfair negotiating tactic and to get the cereal maker to back to the negotiating table.

Kellogg’s told its Memphis workers not to come back to work in October after negotiations broke down on a new contract.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

TVA: Energy Usage Records Broken in January

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Tennessee Valley Authority customers broke records for energy use last month, the energy provider announced Tuesday.

TVA said five of the top 10 energy usage days in its history were recorded in January and said this winter's "arctic cold" was the likely culprit. Energy use on Tuesday, January 7 was the highest in TVA history at nearly 703 gigawatt hours. The low temperature in Memphis that day was 1 degree and the high was 27 degrees, according to data from Weather Underground.

Other January dates in the TVA's top 10 were January 6, 28, 29, and 24.

The energy used on the five days in January totaled 3,399 gigawatt hours. That's enough energy to power the entire city of Nashville for 10 months, power a laptop computer for 5.9 million years, or send the "Back to the Future" Delorean through time 2,809 times.

Most of that power was generated at coal-fired energy plants (32 percent). Nuclear (24 percent) and gas power (21 percent) rounded out the top 3 TVA power sources for those days in January.

The power surge is good news for TVA as the company is coming off a soft season for energy use. Power use dips annually in October, November, and December, according to TVA's last quarterly earnings report, which covered those last three months of 2013.

TVA reported a net loss of $67 million on revenues of $2.3 billion in October, November, and December. The loss was an improvement over the same period last year when TVA saw a $245 million loss.

TVA provides electric power to public utilities in seven states including Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky.


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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hard Rock Move and $2.5M Renovation Confirmed

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 9:54 AM

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  • Beale Street Merchants Association

Any doubt that company officials want to move the Hard Rock Cafe west on Beale Street to the Lansky Bros. building were all but erased with a building permit filed Monday.

A $2.5 million permit was pulled from the city of Memphis for renovations and remodeling to the interior and exterior of the building at 126 Beale. The spot is known to most simply as "the Lansky Bros. building" and was last the home of E.P.'s Delta Kitchen & Bar, which closed in 2008.

The permit names Belz Enterprises as the owner of the building and the tenant as Hard Rock Cafe International.

Memphis architects Hnedak Bobo Group will design the new space, according to the permit. W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co. will build the new restaurant, bar, and rock and roll memorabilia showplace.

News of the move excited the Memphis press two weeks ago. Reporters had confirmed the news through Memphis Mayor A C Wharton's office and through former Beale Street manager John Elkington. Monday's building permit is the first confirmation of the planned move by company officials.

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