4-Story Bar & Venue Coming to the Ernest Tubb Record Shop Location

The Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Lower Broadway in Nashville is a national landmark and was a living piece of country music history. In 2022 after being shuttered amid an ownership battle and uncertainty for the future of the business, a set of investors stepped up to buy the property and business. At the time, the hope was that the Ernest Tubb Record Shop would be saved.

The building at 417 Broadway will be preserved indefinitely thanks to historic covenants protecting the structure itself. But both the current ownership group of the building, and the company the owners have partnered with to lease and manage the property, are not currently committing to saving the record shop business itself. Instead the current plan is to build a multi-level honky tonk bar and music venue at the property, with perhaps a tip of the hat to the location’s Ernest Tubb legacy.

In a recent report in The Nashville Post, it was reported that the new owners of 417 Broadway are leasing the building to Tusk Brothers Entertainment. The principals of Tusk Brothers are Jamie and Bryan Kenney, who also operate the Reunion Bar and Hotel in East Nashville, as well as the bar Never Never in Nashville’s Wedgewood neighborhood.

On March 14th, the Nashville Metro Planning Commission will hear a request from Tusk Brothers for a final site plan of the property that proposes a 4-story bar and live music venue. The current building is three stories, with a proposed rooftop bar constituting the 4th story. Jamie Kenney told The Nashville Post, “Our hope is to have a honky-tonk that will pay tribute to the legacy of Ernest Tubb and the record shop. We love who Ernest Tubb was and what he meant to Nashville’s music history.”

However, paying tribute to the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, and re-opening the Ernest Tubb Record Shop are two separate things. This has caused some fans of the Record Shop and preservationists of the shop’s legacy to worry the location might become just another multi-level Lower Broadway honky tonk catering to tourists in the region without a record shop aspect at all.

The building’s new owners and the Tusk Brothers lessees have yet to even finalize the name of the new business, or decide if the iconic sign on the front of the building will remain. They have also given no timeline on when the establishment may open again.

The new ownership group for the Ernest Tubb Record Shop location paid $18.3 million for the building and the 0.08-acre parcel it sits on. The group includes Nashville-based real estate investor, developer, and former NFL player Brad Bars, Russian-born renown Nashville studio musician Ilya Toshinskiy, and Ernest Dale Tubb III, who is a businessman located in the Nashville area and Ernest Tubb’s grandson.

Saving Country Music reached out to Brad Bars of the new ownership group to ask if there was any intention to open an actual record shop at the property in the future, or if the new business would have any significant retail aspect. “We are leasing it to Tusk so I would ask them,” Bars responded. “I encouraged them to keep the sign and keep some aspects of the record shop.”

Saving Country Music then reached out to Jamie Kenney of Tusk Brothers and asked the same question. Kenney responded, “We are super early in the planning phases so don’t have any details to comment on at this point, but will be excited to share those with you down the road as they develop. Thank you and appreciate the interest.”

Though plans for the location still seem preliminary, what seems certain is the location will expand to include a bar and live music venue. Whether the Tusk Brothers also choose to move forward with reconstituting the actual Ernest Tubb Record Shop on one of the four floors of the building is still up in the air.

Lower Broadway is quickly becoming saturated with multi-level bars. Just in February, Morgan Wallen announced his intention to open the six-story “This Bar” in downtown Nashville by the summer of 2024, and John Bon Jovi announced his intent to open a 37,000 sq. ft. bar as well.

The Ernest Tubb Record Shop building is right next door to the new Garth Brooks Friends in Low Place bar that is set to have its grand opening on March 7th. The two buildings used to be separated by a narrow alley, but Garth partnered with the city of Nashville to incorporate the alleyway into the new location, with the Metro Nashville Police operating a substation out of the building’s expansion.

Meanwhile, vinyl record sales are surging, increasing to 49.61 million in 2023, up 14.2% from 43.46 million in 2022. In was also the 18th year in a row that vinyl sales have increased.

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The Ernest Tubb Record Shop became embroiled in a legal dispute in 2020 between the previous owner David McCormick, and the new owners JesseLee Jones and Emily Ann Cousins, who also own the honky tonk Robert’s Western World on Lower Broadway. Jones and Cousins purchased the property from David McCormick in what first appeared to be the perfect deal to preserve the property and business. But an estate dispute resulted in the respective parties announcing the Ernest Tubb Record Shop would be closing and put up for sale.

First opened in 1947 on Commerce St. as a retail enterprise for country legend Ernest Tubb, the Ernest Tubb Record Shop moved to its more iconic location on Broadway in 1951. Frustrated at the lack of country records stocked at many retail establishments across the country, Ernest Tubb decided to open up the store right around the corner from the Ryman Auditorium where the Grand Ole Opry was held.

The location also became the venue for the Midnite Jamboree—the official/unofficial afterparty of the Opry every Saturday night. Along with the record shop becoming a landmark, the Midnite Jamboree also became a cultural staple. This is where Loretta Lynn got her big break, and dedicated a song to Patsy Cline as she laid in a hospital bed after a tragic auto accident—just one of many legendary moments in country history facilitated by the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, and the Midnite Jamboree.

Soon both the Ernest Tubb Record Shops, and the Midnite Jamboree became national institutions. Multiple Ernest Tubb Record Shop locations opened across the country, including in Pigeon Forge, TN and Fort Worth, TX. The Midnite Jamboree was broadcast on WSM in Nashville, and simulcast in scores of markets.

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