Some of the flashiest growth on Lower Broad is coming from companies not from Nashville, or Tennessee. And one in particular — Ohio-based TC Restaurant Group — now owns eight high-profile bars and restaurants.
Eleanor Kennedy, a senior reporter with the Nashville Business Journal, says the company is “driving a major reshaping of downtown Nashville. They are the biggest player in this trend of celebrity bars, and they’ve spent millions of dollars of real estate right at the heart of downtown.”
Kennedy recently investigated TC and spoke to WPLN’s Natasha Senjanovic about what she found. Listen to the full interview above, or read it below.
NS: First of all, what prompted your reporting?
EK: I started asking about TC Restaurant Group because of all of these celebrity bars that they were opening, back to back fairly quickly, with Florida Georgia Line and then Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. How does this company have these connections? How have they found these superstars? And I didn’t necessarily get the answer to that so much as people said, Oh well you now Joe and Jon Field, they’ve got a long history in the industry. I had never heard those names so as one does, I Googled “Joe and Jon Field restaurant” and the first hit that came up was a DoJ press release.
Kennedy read about guilty pleas and prison sentences in Ohio, in 2014, for tax-related felonies that included concealing their ownership of various business assets. She also found that Jon Field had pleaded guilty to theft in Colorado and discovered that locally, the brothers have been sued successfully by contractors — as well as a more recent lawsuit with a prior landlord.
EK: The landlord alleged that Joe Field, who sold the assets of his last business to his son-in-law Adam, continued to control the company and the landlord alleged that would have been a violation of some TN restrictions on convicted felons getting liquor licenses.
NS: The business that Joe Field sold to his son-in-law — that became the TC Group. What does Adam Hesler say about how active the Fields are within the company?
EK: Adam told me that Joe Field is the head of the business relations and marketing and Jon Field is the head of construction and design, and that is pretty consistent with our reporting. So they are leading pretty significant departments, as it were, for a booming bar business.
NS: You’ve said the musicians partnering with TC either didn’t respond to requests for comment, or declined to talk to you. But do think celebrities in general are doing their homework before attaching themselves to ownership groups?
EK: That’s a good question. I think that remains to be seen, what type of research they’re doing and what they want to be aware of and make their decisions based on in the partnership.
TC also runs a bar called Sun Diner, which is a licensing deal with Sun Records, and the president of Sun Records did speak to me and said everybody has a little trouble with the IRS now and then, and that coming from the music industry that litigation is common.
That’s also something that TC’s attorney told me, that there are a lot of lawsuits in this industry and that’s true, but there was a lot of stuff particularly notable with the background of the Fields we wanted to report on.
NS: You’ve also reported that some of the other bars downtown are bringing in tens of millions of dollars a year. But as a tourist destination, there’s basically only one concept on Lower Broad. How many high-end honky-tonks can a few blocks really sustain?
EK: I think that’s the question that everyone in Nashville is asking, but so far there’s no signs of slowing down. Our airport continues to set record after record, so for now tourism is booming in Nashville and I don’t know that there is an end in sight.