The street-level offering of restaurateur Sam Fox and Justin Timberlake’s new three-story Nashville concept is called Honky Tonk. And though the Twelve Thirty Club is located on Lower Broadway, the city’s rowdiest tourist thoroughfare, anyone who’s ever had draft beer spilled on them while happily two-stepping to a live country quartet at one of the many O.G. honky-tonks down the street might take issue with its chosen designation.
Instead of the time-loved tobacco-stained walls that line the old-school honky-tonks, this new project, which covers 38,000 square feet over three floors holding two restaurants and five bars, has hand-painted murals and antique chandeliers. At the Twelve Thirty, there are soft leather banquettes instead of metal stools. Cans of PBR are 86’ed in favor of a world-class cocktail program. China and glassware take the place of paper plates and red Solo cups. There’s a kale salad on the bar menu, for God’s sake. Indeed, there’s a reason the area around the Twelve Thirty Club has recently been christened “Upper Broadway.”
Did Fox manage to create the first honky-tonk in Nashville that’s actually chic? That was the plan, he tells AD, explaining that the goal was to create a distinctive space that honors the city’s music scene in a sophisticated setting. “We didn’t want any reclaimed wood on the walls or neon lights that spell out ‘Tequila made me do it.’”
It wasn’t booze that convinced the Phoenix-based restauranteur to open a high-concept restaurant and club on Nashville’s rowdiest stretch of pavement. Rather, it was Timberlake. The superstar and his family live nearby in an haute-rural township called Leiper’s Fork, and after Fox met the singer at a barbecue, the Grammy winner proposed the idea of becoming business partners.
Of the more than 120 restaurants Fox has opened in his 30-years-plus career, the Twelve Thirty Club is the most expensive at $25 million, and also the most design intensive,thanks to the firm AvroKO. The press materials for Twelve Thirty call its aesthetic “dapper as hell,” a spot-on phrase that sounds like it might have been cribbed from Timberlake’s distinct verbal lexicon.
Fox says the performer gave a lot of valuable input and design feedback during the process. “He is involved and very opinionated,” he says. “One area Justin really pushed us to get right was lighting. ‘The two most important places for lighting are in the bedroom and on stage,’ he said. We redesigned the whole lighting plan based on his input.”
Timberlake thinks they hit a home run. “Thought and consideration went into every aspect of the building—from architecture and lighting to how guests will interact and feel in each area,” the singer told AD over email. “After seeing the finished Supper Club, I think we nailed creating a space that will provide an exciting experience people will not only enjoy but want to revisit.”
AvroKO implemented a sumptuous jewel-toned palette, using marble, antiqued mirrors, high-gloss paint, and touch-me materials like soft leather and velvet to honor the more luxe side of the Prohibition era that inspired the project.
Equally influential for AvroKO was the “countrypolitan” aesthetic they came across in their research. “It was a movement in the ‘60s and ’70s that signified a nexus point of both new and old music themes,” AvroKO partner Adam Farmerie tells AD. “During this period, music and shows were advertised using these incredible flyers with rich colorways, both muted and saturated, which we used in the various spaces.”
In addition to a different color scheme, each floor has its own offerings and overall flavor. At the very top is the Supper Club, an elegant 400-seat restaurant that is the swankiest space on the premises, dripping with Deco details, a checkered marble floor, orange-red velvet-covered swivel chairs, coffered ceilings, and a gold leaf dome, surrounded on many sides by a hand-painted mural of a dark Tennessee forest by Texas artist Scott Staples.
One level down, on the mezzanine, is Honorary Member, a jewel box cocktail bar that serves as a VIP area and sexy private party venue. “It’s the kind of place you stumble on in a side alley you didn’t mean to walk down,” Farmerie says, adding that the space is a favorite of the firm.
The name is a nod to the Twelve Thirty’s policy of inclusivity: Everyone who walks through the doors is an “honorary member.” The term, Fox explains, was the designation given to drinkers at Prohibition-era speakeasies, which operated back room bars which opened to “members” at 12:30 p.m. “This is not a private club,” he reiterates. “This is come one, come all. Every floor is open to the public.”