Times Square’s Opry City Stage Promises to Bring the Nashville Sound to Gotham
On Tuesday night, Trace Adkins did something a lot of country music singers do: he dropped by the Opry to do a set.
The weird thing was that it was in Times Square—not Nashville.
The Grand Ole Opry—the legendary country music venue (and radio program that has been running since the 1920s) in Tennessee—has a new incarnation in New York City called Opry City Stage.
Yes, country can survive in the city. (Hopefully.)
The 28,000-square-foot music and food venue, which takes up four floors, hadn’t officially opened yet when Adkins was jamming with the country music band Big Hix (it opens today); Adkins just performed for family and friends. But if it is a sign of what is to come, Gotham will be getting in touch with its inner Hank Williams in short order.
Owners Gadi Peleg, Gary Korn and Ken Sturm first looked at the space two years ago. They thought, “obviously something great has to happen here,” Peleg, who partnered with Ryman Hospitality Properties on the project, told Commercial Observer during a tour earlier in the week.
The venue is at 1604 Broadway, between West 48th and West 49th Streets and just north of the bowtie, a space that had spent a very long time languishing without a tenant. It was the site of David Copperfield’s doomed restaurant that never opened (The New York Times memorably headlined the announcement that Copperfield’s plan was kaput: “Poof! $34 Million Vanishes on Broadway.”)
But what to do with the space controlled by Atlas Capital through a ground lease?
Peleg said that Sturm “had the crazy idea about going to Nashville and bringing country music to New York.”
Ryman’s Grand Ole Opry, for those who aren’t country music fans, is a historical institution in Nashville; it has attracted the luminaries of the genre, from Patsy Cline, to Johnny Cash, to living legends like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, who perform multiple times per year. Peleg, Korn and Sturm worked out a deal for the Opry’s first satellite location in its more than 90-year history.
Plus, the idea has the unusual potential of walking the line between appealing to tourists and locals alike.
“Because of the location it will certainly be a tourist location,” Peleg said—but added, “I could definitely see this as a place for New Yorkers” who love country music. Indeed, Peleg and his partners promise a non-stop roster of local and national country music performers coming through. LoCash, for instance, is promised for New Year’s Eve. “This gives you a little piece of Americana in Times Square,” Peleg said.
And unlike a lot of Times Square venues that are all about flash and glitter, it would seem that Peleg, Korn and Sturm, have put some effort into giving it a slathering of substance as well. (As well as a forgivable dose of kitsch: There are, for instance, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash outfits—a white suit, in Cash’s case—behind the glass in the back of the venue.)
Opry City Stage will certainly distinguish itself from its neighbors in terms of the food.
We like doing food that has “some kind of theater to it,” said Bruce Bromberg, who along with his brother Eric—the heads of the Blue Ribbon empire—is doing the menu.
The Bromberg reputation for fried chicken is one of the most highly respected in the city, so it makes sense they would be chosen for this kind of venue. However, it’s worth noting that they’re a unique presence in a part of town that has traditionally been more receptive to chains like Bubba Gump Shrimp or Applebee’s.
Bromberg has created a menu that would impress any sons of the south (he told Commercial Observer he’s expecting 1,500 covers per night): dinosaur-sized ribs; tender and sweet helpings of pulled pork; cheddar sausages; Nashville hot chicken (with waffles); and an enormous monkey bread with vanilla ice cream.
While Peleg and Korn declined to reveal the rent, The Real Deal reported that when the deal was signed in mid-2016, asking rents in the corridor were $2,363 per square foot, as per a Cushman & Wakefield (CWK) report. (During construction, the building was the site of a tragedy when construction worker Jose Cruz fell to his death.)
There will be ticketed performances on the fourth floor, as well as other shows in the central space taking up the second and third floors, plus a retail component on the ground floor selling guitars made out of license plates (and going for just under $1,000 a piece), Goo Goo Clusters (it’s a southern candy thing) and trucker hats.
Perhaps all the rhinestone cowboys of 2017 have found their new home.