Earnestine & Hazel’s Is Back Open, and the Soul Burgers Are Grand

Memphis Project 365: Day 178

Everybody Calm Down: Earnestine & Hazel’s Isn’t Changing

Our favorite downtown dive bar reopened the weekend of March 20th. It's been closed for a year and now has new owners.

I caught up with Derk Meitzler—he’s one of the new owners of Earnestine & Hazel’s—at his other downtown pub, The Vault. He’s also preparing for the opening of Backlot Sandwich Shop and Paramount restaurant in the coming weeks. 

Here’s how our conversation started:

Me: Hi Derk, people are very worried. What are y’all going to change at Earnestine & Hazel’s?

Derk: We’re not changing anything. 

And there you have it folks, they’re not turning it into a tapas restaurant or reverting the historic building back into a brothel. The ghosts have not been evicted and they’re leaving the random bathtubs upstairs. Haunted AF jukebox and Soul Burger remain intact. Take a deep breath!

Earnestine & Hazel's / Alex Shansky
Photo Credit: Alex Shansky

When Will Earnestine & Hazel's Reopen?

They're open! Hours are Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 5 p.m. - 'til and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. - 'til.

I know we're all excited to get back in, but let's remember that social distancing and mask requirements are still in place.

Answering your questions

I recently asked if you all had questions for the new owners. You had many. So many. I've never experienced Memphians with so much attention to detail. I did my best to get some answers. Some things are still unfolding, so if you don't see your question answered here, the answer for now is probably is "we don't know". 

Does it look the same/is the upstairs be the same? Yes. 

Does Earnestine & Hazel's still have the Soul Burger and will it be the same? Yes and yes. 

Did the staff come back?
Some key staff members plan to return, including Big John, Dewayne, and Floyd. Yes, Mr. Nate Barnes will take his place at the upstairs bar serving the hard stuff, "just as soon as he’s had his second vaccination shot," Derk explains. They also do have to wait on their liquor license. 

As for Karen Brownlee, longtime E&H bartender, she moved to a different state to be with family.

Are they renovating Earnestine & Hazel's? Renovations were made in 2019, but those were structural and mostly behind-the-scenes necessities. The building is “in great shape” now and "the bar area looks incredible" according to Meitzler. The floor is new, but doesn't look out of place to me.

Is there live music? Yes.

Is the pool table in the same place? Derk says that the most recent layout with the pool table up front and bands in the back will remain for now.

What are the hours?? Wednesday - Friday 5pm - Close. Saturday and Sunday opening at 11am - Close.

Who are the new owners? The new owners, which include Derk, Tyson Bridge, and other unnamed investors, all have years of experience in the Memphis restaurant industry.  

What about the 5 Spot? According to Derk, The 5 Spot is not a part of the new ownership’s purchase. It has a different owner than Earnestine & Hazel’s and so will remain closed for now. It does seem to be on the table, though. Derk says if he does have a chance to reopen The 5 Spot, he’ll return it to its roots as a chill place with a couple tables outside. 

Are they adding any menu items? To start, no. Derk mentioned the possibility of one day adding a few simple items that can be prepared on the same flat top as the burgers, like a shrimp poboy or grilled cheese sandwich. He says the staff mentioned that vegetarians do come in and a veggie burger might happen in the future.

What about the ghosts?! An absurd number of you asked about the ghosts. Derk says "I believe the ghosts are still there". He says that he's experienced the famously haunted jukebox cutting on at random times while he's been in the space alone.

"I always listen closely to which song it plays, in case it's related to something going on in my life," he says. He notes that people have reported the ghost-chosen songs often being a little too on-the-nose for their personal lives or recent conversations. That's enough to give me chills. 

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Rebecca
There is NOTHING like a Soul Burger! And no better named burger on the planet...its just G-O-O-D to your soul!
July 6, 2010 1:56pm

Audra
I make a point to visit E&H every time I come home. Oooh, that smell!
July 6, 2010 7:42pm

Henry Jones

Russell George was my uncle. I worked there for 12 years. Seen the place when it first opened in 94 . Lots of good memories for me here. Glad to see this

March 12, 2021 10:11am

Anonymous

I felt the Energy and a great vibe just as it was in the old days Thank u all for bringing it back to what it was !! Hasent been like that in 3 years Thanks again

April 16, 2021 12:52pm