Thursday, April 22, 2010

Buffett's parrot gets OK for downtown Nashville cafe

Margaritaville Café, a Jimmy Buffett-themed bar and restaurant planned for Lower Broadway, is coming to fruition after all, parrot head sign included.
Plans for singer and beach lover Buffett's Margaritaville project will move forward with its signature parrot logo perched atop a 16.5-foot sign along downtown's honky-tonk row.

The $10 million restaurant also will get windows that open to let in fresh air, despite earlier concerns by preservationists that such a design wouldn't be historically accurate for the area.

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission, accepting most of its staff's recommendations, approved the façade of the beach-themed restaurant at 322 Broadway.

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Commissioners also allowed a key sign planned for the corner of Fourth Avenue South and Broadway to rise a foot higher than under normal design guidelines.

"We're very pleased," said Larry Papel, a partner in Corner Partnership, owner of the building that had housed Global Café, and even earlier a Planet Hollywood.

Earlier this year, Buffett's Orlando-based Margaritaville Holdings leased the 18,000-square-foot site from Corner Partnership with plans to open a restaurant by December.

Developers initially had proposed to the commission's staff a height of 25 feet for the sign. They later scaled that back to 16.5 feet. The staff recommended a foot less, but Buffett and company got those 12 inches back in the end.

"There's still a concern that it sets a precedent, but we tried to craft our motion so that we were as specific as can be," said Ann Nielson, chairman of the commission that governs the look of buildings in the city's historic district.

The staff also felt that letters that light up one at a time on a sign didn't meet the Broadway Historic District guidelines. But commissioners said the sign is OK since there are other brightly lit signs in the district.

Developers had insisted that windows that open to catch an occasional breeze were critical to the restaurant's image and Buffett's plans.

Getahn Ward covers commercial real estate. He can be reached at 615-726-5968 or at

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