Newcomer Famous Saloon maintained the building's historical character while retrofitting it with modern tech.

High Tech Meets Honky-Tonk at Nashville's Famous Saloon

Music City’s newest saloon blends food, beverage, tunes, and automation.

The business of running a restaurant is tricky enough, but when the establishment in question encompasses three floors and some 23,000 square feet, the challenges start to compound. 

Located in downtown Nashville, Tennessee’s bustling Lower Broadway neighborhood, the Famous Saloon is a 10-month-old “honky-tonk” featuring a restaurant, multiple bars with lounge spaces, a new rooftop terrace, and a stage for live musical performances. 

May West, granddaughter of the late country legend Dottie West, first approached developer Scott Thompson about the project. She knew first-hand how local establishments peppered throughout the Music City often fast-tracked the next big stars. She also understood how critical it would be for the Famous Saloon to stand out.

“Contrary to the other honky-tonks in Nashville that use memorabilia for wall decorations, we took it to another level and hired a local artist, Amy Reader, who created 10-by-8-foot mosaics of country artist profile pics. The artists include my grandmother, Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, and Willie Nelson,” West says. “I wanted to create a place that had old Nashville and new Nashville combined; upscale honkytonks truly exist here.”

The previous tenant, the Silver Dollar Saloon, only occupied the first floor as a music venue with a bar. Famous Saloon stretched itself throughout the building, which—while making it more diversified—also meant it ran the risk of spreading too thin. The staff grappled with controlling the ambiance of each room, like stage lighting for a performance, background music in the restaurant, or even the video screens scattered throughout the venue.

“This is what makes us stand out from the other venues in downtown Nashville. Some bars and restaurants have never updated their sound system or put in any soundproofing or lighting controls to help the mood and look of their venue. I wanted to create a space that could be ever-changing and sound amazing, and the ELAN control system really helps achieve that,” West says. “Plus, I had a family name to live up to between my father, Mo West, a successful music engineer, and my grandmother, Dottie West. I wanted the best.”

Just as Famous Saloon was able to integrate modern technology into a historical structure, it is also quickly weaving itself into Nashville’s music scene. The concept hosted a number of musicians this June during the CMA Music Festival. And in August, Ben Folds stopped by to share photos from his travels to Cuba.