logoTennessean-230wpress-sams-hillsboroThere’s a chance the 15-year-old flagship Sam’s Sports Grill in Hillsboro Village won’t reopen after a fire closed the restaurant in June.

Owner Sam Sanchez said several factors have delayed the reopening of the restaurant at 1803 21st Ave. S. The fire damaged a portion of the restaurant, including smoke damage on the building’s second floor, and bringing the property up to code and passing inspections is a long process. Sanchez said he’s working with insurance adjustors, structural engineers, architects and inspectors.

Coupled with the fact the owners of the Hillsboro Village building might sell it, and Sam’s Sports Grill’s lease expires at the end of the year, Sanchez said it’s too soon to tell whether the sports bar is closed for good.

“We’re kind of hoping for the best, yet we’re preparing for the worst,” Sanchez said.

Sam’s opened in Hillsboro Village in 2000, and the bar has since expanded to five additional locations with a sixth under construction at 6051 Highway 100 in Belle Meade. Sam’s is known for its extensive beer list, drink specials and big-screen televisions for watching sports.

Sanchez said the Hillsboro Village restaurant is fully insured for the fire damage, and the business’ performance is not a factor in whether Sam’s reopens. He said the restaurant saw a slight dip in business when competing sports bar Double Dogs opened two doors down from Sam’s, but the restaurant quickly recovered. Overall, Sanchez said having another sports bar in the neighborhood brought increased foot traffic.

“I think we felt more of a strength to the area. If you remember, Boscos closed down; Sunset (Grill) closed. A lot of stuff closed down. (Double Dogs) probably brought more people to the Village, and if anything, it reintroduced us,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said the longer it takes Sam’s Sports Grill to pass inspections and reopen, the closer it gets to the restaurant’s lease expiration at the end of the year.

He said the landlord, Buckhead Investments LLC, doesn’t want to renew the lease since there’s a chance the property could change hands. It’s possible Sam’s could operate on a month-to-month lease once its current agreement expires.

Meanwhile, the neighboring Village Brewhouse & Marketplace, which Sanchez opened in the former Boscos space in March, is tied to the Sam’s Sports Grill lease. Sanchez said it does not make sense to operate that business if Sam’s doesn’t reopen.

“(The leases) both end at the same time. The Village Marketplace has been a fun project … but the Village Marketplace was there because of Sam’s. It’s just not having the success we need it to have in order to maintain it by itself, and for us to go in there and change Village Marketplace over to its own entity would be very difficult,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said some employees from the Sam’s Sports Grill in Hillsboro Village have been transferred to other Sam’s locations.

The restaurant on Highway 100 is slated to open in late September. Sanchez called it a somewhat “nicer” version of Sam’s Sports Grill, and said it will be called Sam’s Place.

Although the closure in Hillsboro Village has damaged the company’s business, Sanchez said it has been harder emotionally given the history of the restaurant.

“That is the original Sam’s and that’s the one everybody remembers and the one so many people have such fond memories of. Just emotionally, it’s hard to wrap your mind around. I think that’s why we’re so adamant about moving forward to try and open no matter what,” Sanchez said.

Known as a lively shopping and entertainment district just southwest of downtown Nashville, Hillsboro Village has experienced a flurry of retail and restaurant changes in the past year. H.G. Hill’s new Hill Center Acklen brought 42 apartments and street-level retail to the neighborhood, including Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Double Dogs, Native + Nomad and Revv boutique. Neighborhood staple Sunset Grill closed Dec. 31 after a 24-year run, and Nashville-based restaurant group Fresh Hospitality has since purchased the building with plans to open several restaurant concepts.

Lizzy Alfs, lalfs@tennessean.com
9:15 p.m. CDT August 17, 2015