While speculation abounds as to whether or not ABC will renew Nashville for a third season, it appears the show’s countrified answer to The Peach Pit (i.e., The Bluebird Cafe) will not see the end of 2014. The landmark Green Hills singer-songwriter sanctuary will shut its doors at 4104 Hillsboro Pike for good at the end of June.
According to an email the Scene received from Bluebird communications director Louis Friend, the bar/restaurant’s landlord, Dick Johnson, has decided not renew its lease, which expires in June. That leaves the famed and fairly prestigious haunt without a home. Sources behind the deal tell the Scenethat the space will house a Nashville location for Jimmy Buffett’s Cheeseburger in Paradise chain.
- The Bluebird Cafe as replicated on the set of ABC’s ‘Nashville’
The 90-seat Bluebird Cafe opened in a Green Hills strip mall in 1982. Since then, the club has been a beacon of mope and melody for struggling and established songwriters alike to shed and showcase new tunes in an intimate, communal dinner-theater setting, and today’s news comes as a shock to many of Music City’s tunesmiths. In addition to being a longtime haunt for established singers and songwriters like Pam Tillis and Don Schlitz (“The Gambler”), acts ranging from Taylor Swift to an early incarnation of Kings of Leon were discovered at the club. “Say it ain’t so!” Tillis tweeted at the club upon hearing the news.
The Bluebird was also the setting for director Peter Bogdanovich’s 1993 country tinged rom-com The Thing Called Love, which starred Samantha Mathis and River Phoenix as Hillsboro-pavement-pounding songsters in love. More recently, the club has been a fixture on the ABC series Nashville, where many of the show’s characters work, congregate and/or perform. The show’s production crew built a true-to-scale replica of the club on a sound stage on the north end of town.
“As a conservative, I support Dick Johnson’s right as a landlord and small business property owner to maximize the capital potential of his assets,” Rusty “Nails” Ottersby — a songsmith who’s penned cuts for Hank Williams Jr. and Kacey Musgraves — told the Scene via phone. “But as a working Nashville songwriter and supporter of small businesses like The Bluebird, I think this is just totally fucked.”
- One of 19 Cheeseburger in Paradise locations nationwide
Adding insult to injury for many Nashvillians and Music Row purists is the fact that the The Bluebird’s hallowed ground will become simply another nationwide venue for bro-country OG Jimmy Buffett to hawk cheeseburgers. Nashville will be Cheeseburger in Paradise’s 20th location, joining cities spanning from Florida to Hawaii.
“We’ve always known Jimmy was kind of an asshole,” Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who opened Buffett’s 2010 show at Bridgestone Arena, said in a statement. “But we at least thought he respected Nashville’s rich country heritage and tradition of songwriting. Apparently he does not.”
“While we’re very sad to see The Bluebird go, we’re thrilled that Jimmy Buffett has decided to expand its brand in Nashville,” Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau honcho Butch Spyridon said in a release. Buffett’s other chain, Margaritaville, opened a downtown location on Lower Broad in 2010.
“Yeah, I’ve never been to that place,” Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, talking about The Bluebird, told The Tennessean. “But I do think the coconut shrimp and spin dip apps at Margaritaville are pretty righteous. Burgers are good, too.”
Louis Friend says that, while The Bluebird’s owners haven’t figured out their plans just yet, they’d like to relocate and reopen in Nashville, and are potentially considering new locations in Five Points and Opry Mills. Friend says a move to Austin might be in the cards as well. “We’ll just have to see,” he says. “Things haven’t been this quiet in here since we had to shush Steven Tyler.”
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