NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A new high-class experience has come to downtown Nashville, courtesy of Ol’ Blue Eyes.
Sinatra Bar & Lounge, operated by Bill Miller and ICON Entertainment Group, has opened in the historic Southern Turf building on Fourth Avenue North, offering native Nashvillians and visitors alike a dining experience with the ambiance of Palm Springs and Manhattan, the very places Frank Sinatra split his time during his life.
According to Miller, the bar and lounge is a dream many years in the making. He told News 2 he began working on the plans for the space back in late 2019, only for them to be put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic a few months later.
“I’ve owned this building for a number of years, and we’ve always kept it vacant because we wanted the perfect concept, and that’s a hard thing to do,” he said. “We’ve never opened a business just to open a business for the sake of opening a business.”
Miller and his family own ICON, which operates numerous other businesses and museums in Nashville, including the Johnny Cash Museum, House of Cards, Skull’s Rainbow Room—located just below Sinatra—and he said opening a business just for the sake of doing it is easy. What his family wanted to do instead was come up with a concept that was “compelling and which transports you to a different time and place.”
Miller and his wife, Shannon, share Sinatra’s love for both Palm Springs and New York, he said, so having both those places serve as inspiration for the balance of elegance and desert fun in the business.
Another important inspiration was Sinatra himself, Miller added, saying he and his partners wanted to create a space they could see Ol’ Blue Eyes himself visiting.
Thanks to a partnership with the Frank Sinatra Enterprises, Miller said they’ve succeeded.
“They said that they can actually imagine Frank sitting in here, having a good time, sipping on a Jack Daniel’s and taking it all in,” he told News 2.
Working with the historic building presented unique challenges and opportunities, according to Miller.
The Southern Turf building, he said, is an 1880s Queen Anne-style building with a “notorious” history.
Back when it was first opened, the first floor served as a saloon that became notorious for booze running and other not-so-family-friendly activities, Miller said.
“These old buildings are a challenge, because it’s like having a hundred-year-old patient in an operating room without having any X-rays or film,” he said. “Any time you open a wall or open a floor, you never know what you’re going to find. Forget about a budget. Budgets mean nothing, because you can go over-budget just by finding something structural.”
For Miller, he wanted to find a way to blend the project into the bones of the building. From the outside, the Queen Anne architecture stands stately against the street. Once inside, the interior isn’t such a drastic change to something more modern.
“You create a personality that’s compatible, and I think we’ve been able to do that,” Miller said.
Another challenge of the renovations for the first floor was the fact that Skull’s Rainbow Room is still operating every day just beneath the floor of Sinatra. As many construction projects go, Miller said, Skull’s would occasionally bear the brunt of a burst water line.
“When you’re integrating a business into a building that has a building directly adjacent to, or in this case below, you’ve got to be very, very cognizant,” he said. “Thankfully, the construction crews were very, very respectful of Skull’s.”
Luckily, because ICON also owns Skull’s, it was “a little easier to forgive ourselves” if there were any issues, Miller joked.
One benefit of renovating such an old building, Miller said, was the height of the ceilings, which afforded Miller and crew more latitude to customize the space.
“That’s thrilling to be able to have that ceiling height, because we were able to create different levels, which make the space way more interesting,” he said. “If you want a lively place that isn’t so intimate, you can sit on the balcony. We have a mezzanine…for private parties, and then we have this main room here where you can be part of the crowd.”
Every square inch of the space was particularly crafted in creating the concept for the floor plan, Miller said, because of the nature of the building.
| READ MORE | Latest headlines from Nashville and Davidson County
“In Nashville we have a lot of what we call ‘long skinnys,’ and this is a long, skinny building. It goes all the way from Fourth Avenue to Printer’s Alley, so trying to fit everything in and make the space functional is also a challenge, because you have to be very, very careful with the design,” he told News 2.
If the bar extended a couple more inches, that would affect where the barstools say, which would affect the open space between them and the banquette seating, Miller added.
“Literally every inch counts in these old buildings,” he said.
Following a VIP opening night Friday, Sinatra Bar & Lounge will officially be open to the public Saturday, April 15.