This week’s installment of East Side Buzz is bittersweet as we are just days away from the one-year anniversary of the fatal March 3 tornado that charged through parts of Middle Tennessee. Large swaths of East Nashville, North Nashville, and Germantown were destroyed. Albree Sexton and Michael Dolfini were killed and countless homes and businesses were demolished or extensively damaged. And though a year has passed, the work is not done. Trees are still mangled, homes and businesses remain empty, unsafe, and boarded up. If you want to lend a hand in long-term tornado recovery, or still need assistance with anything from food and building repairs to legal advice and grief counseling, check out Rebuilding Together and Gideon’s Army’s Rebuild North Nashville project.
The Basement East Is Ready to Reopen!
This week The Basement East’s co-owner and booker Mike Grimes told The East Nashvillian that the beloved bar and music venue is hoping to reopen in March, one year after the club was severely damaged in the 2020 tornado. The wrap-around patio is finished, the “Nashville Is the Reason” and “I Believe in Nashville” murals are joined by fresh artwork of Lydia Luce painted by Kim Radford … and the Beast looks like the Beast again!
“We are grateful the buildout is complete,” says Grimes. “A few small touches and finishes and we will be able to open for operation again.
“We may do some socially distanced, minimal-audience shows in Spring, and we have a few tapings in the works, but for now we are looking at opening our massive footprint inside and outside on the deck on weekends as the safest socially distanced weekend bar hang on the East Side,” he adds.
“No huge bells or whistles, just tables spaced out at least six feet apart inside and outside (weather permitting) with friends spinning tunes inside on Friday and a small PA with live music on the deck outside on Saturday. All COVID protocols will be in place to assure a fun, safe experience.”
Grimes says he and co-owner Dave Brown are shooting for an early March reopening and they’ll announce the official reopening date on their social media accounts. They’ve also dropped a new batch of merch, including one design that was inspired by the tornado.
“Dave and I would love you all to know how we are dedicated to bringing The Basement East back up to full speed when safely possible, and that the neighborhood’s support of our temporary pivot will be a key part of ensuring the rosy future that lies ahead for all. We will rise!”
act now to advertise in our March/April 2021 print edition by contacting
In Other Reopening News …
Dozens of restaurants and businesses were forced to close — either temporarily or permanently — after the tornado stormed through East Nashville, Germantown, and North Nashville. That COVID-19 hit immediately after made a bad situation even worse. While several spots have managed to reopen at some capacity over the past year — including Boston Commons, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish, Attaboy, The Treehouse, Crazy Gnome, and Noble’s Kitchen & Beer Hall — others remain in limbo. This week, we reached out to some of the East Nashville businesses that haven’t yet reopened or announced their permanent closure to get the latest. Here’s a look at a few of the businesses that suffered the tornado’s wrath:
Smith & Lentz Brewing and Pizza: Reopening February 27
Kurt Smith at Smith & Lentz says about 20 percent of their Main Street building, as well as the entire electrical service, was destroyed in the storm. “Plumbing, mechanical, and sprinkler systems were also damaged,” he says.
After about four months of planning out the repairs and getting those plans approved by both the city and insurance companies, and another four months of construction, Smith & Lentz is finally ready to reopen Saturday, February 27. And this time, they have wood-fired pizza.
“We are so excited about our pizza,” says Smith. “Food was part of the vision from before we opened, but it was always imperative we gave it the same attention to quality and process as we give our beer. That took the opportunity from being closed for a year to figure out.”
Chef Chris DeJonge, who previously worked at Rolf & Daughters, has developed the brewery’s pizza menu. How did he make a pie that stands out from the plentiful pizza options in Nashville? He says the secret is treating the pizza dough “with bread sensibilities,” meaning “the technique and the approach is dealt with a lot more care and specific time control” than your average pizza dough.
“The result is a pizza that is not New York and not Neopolitan, though it shares characteristics from both,” he says. “It is chewy and crispy like a New York pie, but the dough will still have distinct bubbling and charring from the rapid rise it gets in the oven.”
Smith says the brewery will be open for to-go only Saturday through Monday and, if the weather cooperates, they plan to open their patio on Tuesday, March 2.
“Depending on how the weekend goes, we may have very limited indoor seating,” says Smith, “starting below the reduced capacity limits to keep the team and guests comfortable.”
BoomBozz Craft Pizza & Taphouse: Reopening April 6
Before the tornado, BoomBozz Craft Pizza & Taphouse’s large outdoor playground made the restaurant a regular weekend destination for families.
“It’s been a long road but we are so very excited; we missed the kids playing on the playground,” says BoomBozz’s General Manager Jame Figueredo. “I’ve had so many families reach out to me telling me that Saturday morning at the playground would be a return to normal life for them. Amazingly one of the few things that made it through the storm was the playground.”
Figueredo says they have added a 44-foot walk-up bar outside the building and they also extended the patios.
“We will have lots of open-air patio seating with some fire pit tables,” he adds. “This building came back from a tornado 24 years ago. We owe it to the community to return again.”
High Garden Tea Room: Not reopening
The tornado devastated High Garden Tea Room’s whimsical 800-square-foot shop. The roof was completely blown off and walls were torn down. The booths, which felt like cozy nooks thanks to the thoughtful placement of branches and dried flowers, were blown apart. Leah Larabell, who owns the business with her husband Joel, was reluctant to say the High Garden Tea Room is gone forever, but for now, opening a physical shop isn’t in the couple’s immediate future.
“We are not going to do what we had, that I can tell you,” says Laura. “We would love to, but it was very, very expensive and took a long time to slowly build into that.
“When [the tornado hit] it showed me just how out of control we really are because something we worked so hard on for literally ten years was just blown away,” she adds. “It humbles you and really kind of puts you in your place. Joel and I didn’t take it as a hit, we took it as, ‘That’s just where we are now.’ We let it metaphorically show us that the walls are down.”
Now, Joel and Laura are exploring what they can do beyond the brick-and-mortar business, starting with their new herbalism program.
“We are teaching,” she tells The East Nashvillian. “We converted the top of our barn into a treehouse classroom, I’ve always wanted to do that. It’s a five-month herbalism program. We’re also going to do more programs out of the barn teaching, we’ve got a proper herb school.”
They’re also continuing to sell their tea online, and, Laura says, the wholesale side of their business is slowly building back up. When restaurants and coffee shops were forced to close at the beginning of the pandemic, their wholesale numbers dropped 98 percent. Laura says they’re back up to about 15-20 percent of where they once were.
“The walls are still down. We want to carry that forward and we’re saving money and I don’t know if it will be five years, I don’t know if it will be two years, I don’t know how long it will be, but it is our dream to have the new space have no walls. It’s a big dream. It would be in the woods, it would be educational trails and a true woodland tea experience. That’s really expensive and it’s gonna take some time to get there, but we’ve learned patience.”
The Soda Parlor: Not reopening
Sadly, The Soda Parlor’s amazing Waffle Mondaes won’t be returning anytime soon. The Woodland Street shop remains boarded up and covered with signs that read “THIS BUILDING IS UNSAFE.”
“The damage was quite extensive to the structural integrity of the building and was a total loss according to insurance,” says Rachel Rogers, who owned the soda shop with her husband Olan. “The entire second floor was gone, which exposed our space to a lot of water damage which contributed to most of the damage.
“Tornados are very strange and almost haunting in the way that they destroy property,” she adds. “It blew out all our windows, moved tables and chairs around, embedded shards of glass into the walls and tabletops but somehow our signature glass mason jars were still sitting on the shelves untouched and unbroken.”
The couple was able to raise more than $25,000 in a GoFundMe campaign, which allowed them to continue paying their entire staff through the end of March, but once COVID-19 hit, they didn’t receive the Paycheck Protection Program loans or an SBA disaster loan, Rachel says, making rebuilding and reopening even more doubtful.
“Building out a small business, getting it opening, and staying open is already hard enough without that added layer of a deadly virus,” she says. “After the grind and hustle of the last five years, it just was not a battle we wanted to fight. We oftentimes say to each other that the tornado bailed us out of a much more slow and painful ending by COVID, which is an absolutely bizarre fact to wrap one’s head around. It’s been heartbreaking to watch so many beloved restaurants not survive, and knowing that could have been us.”
For now, the couple is focused on their apparel business, Star Cadet—this “Doing My Best” design really sums up how I feel about life right now, tbh—and, Rachel says, there may be some Soda Parlor pop-up events in the future.
“The Soda Parlor is not gone forever, it’s just hibernating. It’s too much of a living entity to ever truly go away. It just made sense to take some time to reimagine what it could be and what we want it to be.
“I think pop-ups or even a mobile version of the parlor will be more of what the future looks like,” she adds. “However, it has always been a goal of ours to get Star Cadet and The Soda Parlor in the same building, where you can see your shirts being printed while you snack on a float and play some arcades. One of the many options that the future could hold.”
In other Star Cadet news, the third season of Olan’s animated TV series Final Space will premiere on Adult Swim on March 20 and the first two seasons will begin streaming on HBO Max on March 1.
Drifters and Beyond the Edge: Opening TBA
When he recently spoke to Randy Fox about reopening his seafood restaurant Boston Commons (open as of Feb. 18), owner Matt Charette said he was looking forward to eventually reopening his other two businesses. All three eateries were severely damaged in the storm.
For now, you’ll likely see some familiar faces from Beyond the Edge and Drifters at Boston Commons.
“I think we have all of the front-of-house staff returning and most of the back-of-house staff,” Charette told Fox about Boston Commons. “A few former staff members have moved away, but folks from Drifters and Beyond the Edge are going to fill in the gap.”
Stay tuned for the upcoming print edition of The East Nashvillian for an in-depth look at the current status of businesses affected by the 2021 twister.
MPHD To Begin Offering COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments to those 65 and Over
Metro Public Health Department officials announced yesterday (Thursday, Feb.25) the department will begin scheduling appointments for those 65 and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Slots for those 65 and above will open at 7 a.m. on Friday, February 26. Health Department officials encourage Davidson County residents in the age group to schedule an appointment by visiting covid19.nashville.gov or by calling 615.862.7777 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Health Department offers a Spanish language phone number to schedule appointments at 615.326.9986.
The Health Department will offer the 65 and older age group multiple appointment options each day, seven days a week at the Music City Center.
The following information will be requested when an individual signs up for an appointment:
- Date of birth
- Primary language
- Phone Number
- Race/ethnicity (optional)
- Email (optional)
Councilmembers to Vote on Cooper’s Capital Spending Plan Tuesday
Two weeks ago Mayor Cooper released his Capital Spending Plan, which broke down how he hopes to spend more than $474 million dollars over the next year. We spoke with the mayor about the plan in the Feb. 12 edition of East Side Buzz. Metro Council is set to vote on the proposed plan on Tuesday, March 2.
“For East Nashville and Madison, this Capital Spending Plan includes more funding for the Madison Station Boulevard road construction project, another bridge repair project in Shelby Park, and participation agreements to fund Metro infrastructure upgrades surrounding MDHA properties including Cayce,” says District 6 Council Member Brett Withers. “There is also funding for the Imagine East Bank Planning Study. I am grateful to Mayor Cooper for including all of these East or Madison projects that have smaller price tags but big impacts.”
While Withers also appreciates Cooper’s focus on schools and the funding for a new Antioch Police Precinct, he’s concerned about the lack of funding for the Juvenile Justice Center on Woodland Street.
“Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway and Juvenile Court Clerk Lonnell Mathews have been calling for replacing this structure for several years in order to provide proper care to the youth and families who interact with the juvenile court system,” says Withers. “This would be a large-ticket item and may, unfortunately, need to wait another round.”
The main issue with the Capital Spending Plan, he says, is that Fairgrounds-area residents “are calling to amend it to include additional funding for the next phases of Fair Park construction. But aside from this matter, I anticipate that a majority of Council Members will vote for this Capital Spending Plan to bring new or renovated schools to communities and fund sidewalk, traffic calming, and bikeways projects for neighborhoods.”
Tuesday’s meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. and it will be live-streamed here.
- Loveless Cafe is going to give away free biscuits on March 3 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the tornado.
- Nashville’s COVID numbers dropped after last week’s snowstorm, as many people were forced to stay home and off the roads. (Why people couldn’t also stay home when health officials were literally begging them to is beyond me but whatever works I guess.)
- On Thursday Mayor Cooper announced Nashville will be relaxing some COVID-19 restrictions starting March 1.
- Assembly Food Hall in the new Fifth + Broad building will open next week, on March 4. It features nearly 20 different eateries, including Prince’s Hot Chicken, Donut Distillery, The Liege Waffle Co., and The Pharmacy.
- On Monday, the Tennessee Senate approved the SB 103 bill, which gives Governor Lee “the authority to issue an Executive Order requiring all schools to offer in-person learning.” The House has not yet voted on the bill.
- Nashville’s 2021 Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, which was scheduled for April 24-25, has been postponed. Organizers “feel confident the event will be better positioned for a strong return in the Fall of 2021.”
- A socially distanced version of Tour de Nash 2021 will take place Saturday, May 15. Registration begins March 10.
- Trinity Community Commons has made a donation page for anyone looking to donate money or volunteer to help them begin to recover from the February 17 fire. Learn more here.
Happy album release day to Julien Baker, the emo AF singer-songwriter whose music has been my depression’s ride-or-die since I first heard her cover one of my favorite Jawbreaker songs in 2016.
Little Oblivions is Baker’s third full-length and so far one of my favorite tracks is “Favor,” a tune that features her boygenius bandmates Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers. The trio recorded the vocals here in Nashville, during the same session they recorded Bridgers’s song “Graceland Too.” It’s sad, lush, and beautiful, the kind of song that paints such vivid imagery it permeates all your senses, like a fleeting spring day.
On March 25, Baker will perform a livestream concert from Analog at Hutton Hotel. Tickets and info here. She’s also participating in Sound Mind’s Unwound & Unplugged benefit concert and discussion on March 2—Baker, Gerard Way, and DeathbyRomy will discuss their own experiences with “mental health, isolation and the healing power of creativity and connection.” More info here.