Church Street Café to open in April offering ‘more than a cup of Joe’

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Ron Sanford and Debra Hyslop will open Church Street Café later this month, serving coffee, a full lunch menu (including soups, salads, gourmet sandwiches, and wraps), lite fare, wine, and homemade desserts.  

Sanford and Hyslop have entered into a long-term lease with OutLoud owners Ted Jensen and Kevin Medley, and will occupy the space adjacent to OutLoud (in the Church Street Business District), that originally had been built to be a coffee shop operated by the bookstore.  

The 3,000 square foot space will seat about 150 people.

Opening of the café is just one of several new businesses that have plans to open in the Church Street district, which is quickly becoming Nashville’s GLBT business and entertainment area.

“The Church Street Café will offer the GLBT community a great atmosphere in which to relax with friends or plan the next advocacy project,” said Chris Sanders, president of the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce. “We should all support and welcome businesses that extend such a clear welcome to us and at the same time showcase all the positive aspects of gay Nashville to the wider community.”

In addition to a lunch menu, the café will offer an evening fare that will include an eclectic ‘tapas, or tasting menu,’ with a large selection of appetizers and small plates.  

The menu was developed after Hyslop and Sanford consulted with Rodney Stutts, touted as a regional restaurant expert. Stutts advised Sanford and Hyslop on menu options, staffing, and kitchen setup.

"We hired Rodney to put the menu and kitchen together and let the experts do what experts do," Sanford said. “As a result of the consultation, the Café plans to bring several ‘signature’ dishes to the street and the downtown core, focusing on fresh ingredients, varied choices, and seasonal offerings.”

Sanford said the Café also plans to carry local micro brewed beer, a large wine selection, and a full bar in the near future.

Hyslop and Sanford have worked together intermittently for several years opening and managing cafés, restaurants, nightclubs, and event spaces.

Sanford owns a design/decor company, called Flamboyant and Ron Sanford Productions. He moved to Nashville from Atlanta in 1995 where he was manager of The Connection dance club, until leaving due to a family illness.

"Since then, I’ve had a hungering for the bar and restaurant world,” he said.

Hyslop recently moved back to Nashville from Toronto, where she had opened and managed The Looking Glass, an elegant Alice in Wonderland themed GLBT bar and restaurant. Hyslop owns an event planning and production company in Nashville called Plate Spinning Productions.

Sanford and Hyslop will continue to operate their separate companies, under the umbrella of the Café. Hyslop calls the partnership with Sanford, "a natural fit," as they both separately own production companies that perform catering, décor work, consulting, and event production.

"The Café gives both of us a home base to house our current businesses,” Sanford added.

A ‘vibrant space’

Live music, entertainment and a computer wi-fi hotspot will keep the café alive as what Hyslop describes as a "vibrant space for everyone in Nashville – especially Midtown/Music Row," and refers to it as "a wonderful blend of East Nashville on the other side of the river."

"We are extremely excited about the entertainment piece of this venture,” Hyslop said. “We have a disc jockey booth, and a wonderful stage area that can double as a VIP room."  

Hyslop went on to comment about their desire to feature the amazing wealth of talent that Nashville has to offer.

"We look forward to being able to hold showcases, CD release parties, and songwriter’s nights," she said.

And that’s not all – the first Sunday of every month will showcase a new local artist’s work with a wine and cheese reception and that work will remain on display in the Café for the remainder of the month.

Patio seating to be offered

The Café plans to offer outdoor seating in front of the café, and open a patio up in back of the café.

“We are in the process of getting the proper licensing to have a front patio, and are planning to open the outdoor section as soon as possible,” Sanford said.

Parking can be a challenge

With Sanford and Hyslop agreeing that parking can sometimes be a challenge in the gay district, they were exploring ideas to help patrons.

"The area in behind the café is always a safe bet," Hyslop said.

To accommodate their catering, box lunch, and ‘to go’ business, they said they are investigating a way to offer a parking spot or two for customers to pull up curbside.

Community groups welcome

Church Street Café will be a welcoming home for the community, said the owners, where GLBT meetings and private events will be held.  

A VIP room will offer an intimate space for community meetings and private gatherings.

"The blossoming Church Street business district is one of the most exciting parts of the city at present, and being able to be a part of this development is thrilling,” Hyslop said. “There is so much happening in this area for the GLBT community, and the Nashville community at large, you can’t help but get caught up in the energy."

Sanford and Hyslop have participated in community organizations, such as Pride, HRC, GLSEN, PFLAG, and a variety of AIDS organizations. Hyslop is a member of Nashville’s GLBT Chamber of Commerce and Diversity Builder.

While an official grand opening date has not yet been set, the owners said the evening would be exciting.

"We have already been approached by many talented performers, from Music Row and the community,” Hyslop said. “A total cross section of genres that have offered to perform for our (grand) opening. We promise the opening will be a fabulous celebration."