by Jim Ridley
The Sutler, the Melrose neighborhood saloon that was a hub of the Americana scene in its early years, is scheduled to reopen this summer at its former location in the Melrose building at 2600 Franklin Pike. It's a joint project of Austin Ray, whose M.L. Rose Craft Beer and Burgers is doing gangbusters business across the street, and Joe Parkes and family of The Parkes Companies.
The release lays out the vision for the reopened club:
The Sutler is a reimagined concept of the original venue with the same name. The two-level space with more than 8,000 square feet will include a main level reminiscent of the original Sutler, but expanded to feature a craft beer and cocktail menu, Nashville-style cuisine, and live music regularly. The basement level will house a speakeasy inspired cocktail lounge. ...
Native Nashvillians [Ray and Parkes] were former patrons of the original Sutler and plan to bring it back to life as part of a massive arts, dining, and urban living revival of the Melrose neighborhood and the 8th Avenue corridor.
“There’s always been an entertainment component to this neighborhood,” said Ray. “People who have been in Nashville long enough love this area for the decades of history, and people newer to the city are discovering it. We’re about to really bring that entertainment vibe back with the entire Melrose complex, which includes The Sutler. People ask, will The Sutler focus on food, drinks, or music? My answer is ‘yes.’”
It's terrific news for fans of the late, lamented Sutler, a listening room that sometimes resembled a scruffier, bawdier, less stuffy version of the Bluebird. Opened by former country DJ Johnny Potts in 1976, the club has hosted artists ranging from Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm and Townes Van Zandt to indie-pop guru R. Stevie Moore, bluesman Luther Allison and a pre-stardom Dierks Bentley.
One memorable Sutler show was Shelby Lynne's capacity-crowd concert backed by a big band in 1993. Another was a 1996 tribute to Hank Williams hosted by Billy Block that featured Lucinda Williams, Jim Lauderdale, Phil Lee, Paul Burch, members of Fleetwood Mac, and blues great Tracy Nelson backed by Al Kooper. What eventually became the Scene's The Spin live-review column launched in 2004 with a Tracy Moore recap of a Privates show there.
The property, which also housed the old Loews Melrose theater and the still-surviving, subterranean Art Deco pool hall Melrose Billiards, sat dormant for years after a previous development stalled, leaving a festering pit where the historic Melrose Lanes bowling alley once stood. But it's coming back to life in a major way, especially after the announcement that acclaimed Chicago chef Dale Levitski will open his highly touted new restaurant Sinema in the old theater space.