Chappy’s opens on Church Street

Chappy’s on Church, a 240-seat seafood restaurant, opened today (June 13) with a soft unofficial opening.

The restaurant anchors Nashville's growing "gay district" at 1721 Church Street, and while the business isn't gay owned, it’s owner says it will be gay-friendly.

The restaurant specializes in New Orleans Creole cuisine, and serves fish, shellfish, oysters, crabs, steaks, veal, chicken, and game. It is open from 11 a.m. till 10 p.m. daily.

The 7,500 square-foot restaurant has seating for about 220 people, and includes an open fireplace, a hand-carved bar, Parisian street lamps, and stained glass.

John "Chappy" Chapman opened Chappy's Seafood Restaurant in the former Carter Flooring building, across from the Post Office. Chapman said he welcomes a diverse clientele and looks forward to becoming part of the growing Church Street and Midtown community.

"I hope this restaurant becomes an anchor for all up and coming businesses in the area, and attract additional entrepreneurs," he said. "I welcome a diverse clientele and I definitely hope to receive employment applications from the GLBT community when the time arrives for me to hire my staff of 50."

Chapman owned a highly acclaimed restaurant (Chappy's) for 22-years in Long Beach, Miss. that featured New Orleans seafood cuisine until his business and home were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In Mississippi, the restaurant was bringing in about $2 million a year in sales. The restaurant will serve seafood, steaks, veal, chicken and game during lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Owner-chef Chapman hopes to restart his lines of spices and pepper sauces, as well as sales of his cookbook, "Looks Good to Me!," which has been out for about five years.

He is utilizing $300,000 of his own funds to renovate the 18,000 square foot space, purchase equipment, and acquire fixtures. He plans a three phase construction process, with the first phase of construction consisting of a 7,500 square foot central dining area with décor that resembles something you'd find in the New Orleans French Quarter. Chapman has already begun acquiring some key focal pieces the décor, including some cast iron lamps from Paris, two large stained glass pieces for the restaurant's 'stained glass wall,' and an old dark wood European bar. Three awnings will grace the outside of the building.

Construction phases two and three do not yet have target completion dates but each will further contribute to the "French Quarter" appearance. Phase two will provide a 7,000 square foot interior courtyard and phase three will offer 26 vendor spaces. Chapman envisions artists such as glass blowers, potters, and painters occupying the spaces and displaying their wares during lunch and dinner hours. He plans to make the rental spaces affordable to attract both artists and craftsmen. Rental rates will start at $300 per month.

Chapman, his family, and two dogs moved to Nashville after receiving a phone call invitation from a long time friend. He said he decided to stay in Nashville because of the local generosity.

"Some nuns from St. Cecilia invited my daughter to attend school there," he explained. "Their generosity sealed our (family's) decision to stay."

He stumbled on the Church Street location while out looking for a sight for his Nashville restaurant.

"Some friends of mine and two leasing agents rode around before Labor Day, looking for restaurant space. The agents kept showing me strip mall space, which just wasn't my style," he said. "We turned off West End, ventured onto Church Street, and I saw Nick Spiva's 'space available' listing."

Chapman arranged a lease-purchase deal with Spiva, and was quick to mention how accommodating Spiva was with the real estate transaction.

According to Metro tax records, Spiva-Hill Church Street Partners purchased the property in December 2004 for $1.6 million. It had been owned by the Carter Flooring Company since 1968. The structure was built in 1920.

Customers will be able to park in the 60-space restaurant lot or on the surrounding side streets.

"We're in good shape," he said when asked about parking. "Ample space is available."

Chapman was born in Mobile, Alabama where his father was the British Consul. He is a graduate of Loyola University of New Orleans with a degree in business. He said he learned his cooking techniques from his mother, and had always dreamed of owning and operating his own family style restaurant.

For more information call the restaurant at 615-322-9932.

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