Riverfront district expanding to include Firecracker Hill

The 41/2-year-old Nashville Riverfront District is expanding to include part of a 300-plus-acre area near Greasy Creek.

Firecracker Hill — home of the new Hard Truth Hills development — was accepted into the riverfront district last week with a unanimous vote by the Nashville Town Council. The Nashville Redevelopment Commission also voted unanimously for the expansion April 3.

Nashville does not have any body of water that one would traditionally think of as a river, but for the purpose of creating a riverfront district, Salt Creek is the body it has been using. The state does not define “river” in regards to riverfront districts, said redevelopment commission adviser Ed Curtin. Under that logic, Greasy Creek also counts as a river.

Because of most of Nashville is within 1,500 feet of buildable area along Salt Creek, the Nashville Riverfront District already covers business-zoned properties downtown, in the Hawthorne Drive area, the Parkview Road area and the Creekside Retreat area.

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The primary function of the riverfront district is to allow more restaurants to have three-way liquor licenses than are granted by the state based on a community’s population. Three-way licenses allow the serving of beer, wine and liquor.

When the Nashville Riverfront District was formed in 2013, the town council set the number of riverfront liquor licenses at five, then increased the total to 10 earlier this year to meet expected demand.

The new riverfront district expansion includes the Hard Truth Hills land at Memorial Drive and Old State Road 46, and a small area to the west and across Old State Road 46 from it near Heimburger Lane. The Hard Truth Hills land was annexed into Nashville in January.

With the expansion, three of the 10 riverfront district licenses are now in use by the Big Woods family of companies. At the April 3 meeting, company CEO Ed Ryan asked for the licenses of the original Big Woods restaurant and Big Woods Pizza Company to be renewed and applied for one for the under-construction restaurant at Hard Truth Hills.

A document given to the Nashville RDC shows food and beverage tax receipts climbing from $155,593.58 at the end of 2013, when the riverfront district was created, to $184,109 in mid-2017. The previous high was $174,370.50 in mid-2012. Restaurants in Nashville charge the food and beverage tax.

Among the restaurants that already have riverfront district licenses, about 100 people are employed between the two existing Big Woods restaurants and 20 to 25 at Brozinni’s, the document said. Ryan estimated that 60 to 70 full-time-equivalent jobs would be created at the new Hard Truth Hills site when the restaurant opens in mid-June.

Job creation and job retention are some of the data points the RDC studies when looking at riverfront license applications. Applicants also are required to show at least $150,000 in gross income from food and to make a majority of their sales from food as opposed to alcohol, because the goal is to focus on “a dining and entertainment experience rather than an alcohol consumption experience,” the guidelines say.

Ryan told the Nashville RDC that “without this permit, we don’t open.” The company has an alcohol permit to offer alcohol tastings in its visitor center, but it doesn’t have a way to serve beer or spirits at its under-construction restaurant at Hard Truth Hills without the riverfront district license.

“If you think about economic development, it’s a pretty big deal to have these riverfront permits,” Ryan said.

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Businesses that have applied for riverfront district liquor licenses since they first became available in Nashville in November 2013:

  • Muddy Boots Cafe (no longer in business)
  • Pizza King (no longer in business)
  • The Pine Room (no longer in business)
  • Big Woods original brewpub
  • Big Woods Pizza Co.
  • Billy Joe’s Country Grill (did not open)
  • The Bird’s Nest Cafe
  • Brozinni’s Pizza
  • Brown Bike (under construction)
  • Hard Truth Hills (under construction)