With country music leading Nashville's upswing as a major tourist destination, Blake Shelton and Ryan Hospitality are betting they'll generate significant greenbacks with Ole Red, a multilevel entertainment venue named after a song Shelton brands as his signature hit.
Projected to open in April 2018, the building at 300 Broadway will include a bar, event site and upscale rooftop restaurant in the heart of Music City's tourist district, just two blocks from the Ryman Auditorium, which hosts the Grand Ole Opry during portions of the winter. Ryman plans to invest $20 million in the project, which will incorporate Shelton's Twitter-savvy persona in a tech-friendly game plan that includes him occasionally checking in with customers at the venue via Facebook Live.
"We want to be able to connect in real time," said Ryman Hospitality chairman/CEO Colin Reed. "If you think about brands like Planet Hollywood, 10, 12, 15 years ago, they exploded in popularity with the belief that Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to walk in the door. They served lousy food and Arnold never showed up, and the brand went in the toilet. This is not going to be that way. We're going to have great food, great beverages, great retail, and we're going to make sure that [Blake's] persona is central to this business."
The Nashville location, named after Shelton's 2002 single "Ol' Red," increases the artist presence in the city's downtown venues. Dierks Bentley, John Rich and Alan Jackson all have branded outlets in the works or already open, while Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant already operates in the same block where Ole Red will launch. Other artist-themed enterprises currently operating in the area include the Johnny Cash Museum, the George Jones Museum and the Sun Diner, a 24/7 eaterie that trades on the late Sam Phillips' label and its association with such acts as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.
A second Ole Red is also slated to open in Tishomingo, Okla., in the fall. A former dentist's office and a building next door (which had housed Miranda Lambert's Pink Pistol retail store before Shelton purchased it) will be joined to create the venue. Shelton hopes that Ole Red will come to rival such historic clubs as Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Grizzly Rose in Denver, Colo., as notable country-themed destinations.