September 28, 2013
Construction should start next month on The Diner, a restaurant/bar that its owners see filling a need for a 24/7 concept downtown, while also capitalizing on growth in the area south of Broadway.
Partners in Avenue Diner LLC — which includes the owners ofTootsies Orchid Lounge and Rippy’s downtown — plan to spend nearly $2 million on the project. By late spring, The Diner should open in the new 14,500-square-foot, three-story building with a rooftop patio that will replace the vacant structure at the corner of Third Avenue South and Demonbreun Street.
“It’s going to be a top-of-the-line diner,” said Tootsies co-owner Steve Smith, one of six partners, including his wife, Leah, and son, Brandon, behind The Diner. “It’s on the main throughway to the new convention center and is going to be hard to miss. Demonbreun is going to become the new Broadway.”
Other partners in Avenue Diner LLC include Al Ross, Steve Smith’s business partner; builder Steven DiLeo, whose SJD Builderswill manage the construction; and Jonathan Scott, general manager of Honky Tonk Central, who will be The Diner’s operations manager. The Smiths, who recently bought the property where The Diner will be built for $700,000 from Norma J. Crow, also own several other downtown properties and businesses, including Honky Tonk Central.
The Diner will serve breakfast around the clock and lunch and dinner seven days a week. The menu will include hand-cut prime rib, steaks and chops, and each floor will have a bar that serves alcoholic beverages as well as espresso and similar offerings.
The Metro Development and Housing Agency, whose approval was required because 200 Third Ave. S. is within the Rutledge Hill redevelopment district, gave its nod to the three-story building with rooftop patio after reviewing exterior plans.
The additional stories are to be built atop the existing one-level structure, which will be expanded in the rear to make for a larger footprint, Steve Smith said. The 32-story, 300-unit-plus SoBro apartment tower that developer Tony Giarratana and his partners plan to build will curve around The Diner’s location, he added.
“I’ve been downtown 22 years, and there’s never been a place where you can eat 24/7,” Smith said.
Smith said Junior’s, a diner in Brooklyn, N.Y., known for its cheesecake and 24/7 breakfast, inspired plans for The Diner.
Lender Harrison Crabtree of Renasant Bank helped The Diner partners obtain a construction loan.
The Diner isn’t the only 24/7 concept eyeing downtown. Chattanooga restaurateurs Lee Epstein and Jacob Lemus are pursuing leased space to expand their City Café Diner concept to Nashville.