M.L. Rose owner Austin Ray resurrecting music venue in Melrose

Jun 11, 2014

This story has been updated to include details and comments from the owners.

M.L. Rose owner Austin Ray and developerJoe Parkes Jr. are reviving The Sutler, a neighborhood music venue, at the historic Melrose Theater redevelopment Parkes is leading.

The music venue and bar will join Sinema, the "Top Chef"-alum helmed restaurant (which Ray is also a partner in), and a new venture from Bongo Java owner Bob Bernstein in the building's ground-floor retail space.

Longtime Nashville residents will remember The Sutler, opened by former DJ Johnny Potts in 1976, which was located off of Eighth Avenue in the Melrose neighborhood. The venue announced closing in late 2005, but briefly re-opened in Columbia, Tenn., in 2009, according tothe Nashville Scene. For scope of the original music venue's mark on Nashville, its closing prompted a CMT headline, "How to Crush the Musical Soul of a City," which is worth a read to get a sense of the venue's history.

According to a news release, The Sutler is scheduled to open this summer, a sort of re-imagined concept of the original venue.The two-level space will occupy more than 8,000 square feet and 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."

"There’s always been an entertainment component to this neighborhood,” said Ray, in the release. “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.’ ”

This won't be Ray's first venture with a music venue; he previously owned and operated City Hall in the Gulch with Strategic Hospitality's Benjamin Goldberg.

"We started our business in 1978, and our office was across the street from the Sutler, above where M.L. Rose now sits,” said Parkes, in the release.“We’d have some late nights, and after shutting the office down we’d come over to The Sutler for schooners of beer and food. The commitment to preserving the history – not only of the original Sutler, but also the entire Melrose complex – is something that’s been a crucial part of this project. Isn’t it great to be opening a new place with three decades of history?”

Additional details about the food, drink and music lineup will be announced in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, the original owner is on board.

“It’s a good idea,” said original owner Johnny Potts, in the news release.“I can’t think of another place that reopened an old location like this, but this is the time and place for it.”

The redevelopment of the historic theater into a mixed-use lifestyle complex is being led byParkes Development Group and Fulcher Investment Properties.


E.J. Boyer. Nashville Business Journal. 2014.

Austin Ray to resurrect The Sutler music venue

Jun 11, 2014

Restaurateur Austin Ray and his partner, developer Joe Parkes Jr., picked a name that should have a familiar ring for their new saloon, restaurant and music venue set to open this summer at the redeveloped Melrose Theatre complex.

The Sutler will expand on the part- venue, part-restaurant, part-dive concept that for three decades made the location a social hub for locals and Nashville's music scene.

"We're about to really bring that entertainment vibe back with the entire Melrose complex, which includes The Sutler," said Ray, owner of M.L. Rose Craft Beer & Burgers and a partner in Sinema, another restaurant/bar concept also coming to The Melrose mixed-use development at 2600 Franklin Pike.

The new Sutler, considered a re-imagined version of the original venue, will occupy more than 8,000 square of space on two levels in the retail portion of The Melrose.

Patrons will see nods to the original Sulter on the menu and in the building itself. "It's going to be fun to use some of what was old and make it new," Ray said. "The original Sutler had food, drinks and music. We want to do all three well."

The main level, featuring a craft beer and cocktail menu, Nashville-style cuisine and live music, should remind patrons of the original Sutler, Ray said. The basement level will house a speakeasy-inspired cocktail lounge.

Ray expects to announce the chef for the new Sutler in the next three weeks.

Sinema, whose primary owner is Ryman Hospitality CEO Colin Reed, will occupy the restaurant space on the opposite end of complex from The Sutler.

Next to Sinema, Bongo Java coffeehouse owner Bob Bernstein and his partner, Derek Wolfe, manager of Bongo Java Roasting Co., plan to open an 80-seat modern dinerthat would offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overall, the redeveloped complex includes 27,500 square feet of retail space.

Former country radio personality Johnny Potts opened the original Sutler in 1976.

Over three decades, the business played host to such musicians as Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Don Everly, Buzz Cason, Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash. "It's a good idea," Potts said about Ray and Parkes bringing back The Sutler's name. "I can't think of another place that reopened an old location like this, but this is the time and place for it."

Ray and Parkes were patrons of the original Sutler. Parkes recalls starting his firm in 1978 with offices across the street from The Sutler, where he and co-workers went for beer and food after working late. Ray recalls the menu including a hurkey (grilled turkey and ham) sandwich and beer cheese soup. "You'll see parts and pieces from (Potts') menu in our new one," Ray said.


Getahn Ward. The Tennessean. 2014.

Amanda Virgillito
Squeaky Wheel Public Relations