Where’s the Beef?

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By The Staff

After months of finagling, a change in a county ordinance, lots of construction and a rousing of the community, the national restaurant chain Beef O’Brady’s will open its doors in Shelby County on Monday morning.


Just to catch you up: Management of the company in Tampa approved an unnamed local franchisee early in 2009. That came after Shelby County Fiscal Court reversed a longstanding tie and voted to allow alcohol to be sold in county restaurants on Sunday. The franchisee tried to secure space near Interstate 64.

And in January, Jon and Heather Giles-Kohler announced their plans to open the Beef O’Brady’s in the space formerly held by Kobe at 1637 Midland Trail, hopefully in March.

But now all the work is done, and that day will come on Monday.

And from the way things are going, the community appears to be ready.

“I was working in here last Saturday night, and people kept coming to the door,” Kohler said this week. “I’ve probably had to turn away 50 people, so I finally had to put the signs on the door that we were in training.”

Kohler, who left a job in selling warranties to try his hand in the restaurant business, is buoyed by the whole process of opening the new store.

His grin is wide, and his pride and optimism are obvious. He has the nervousness of any new business owner, but he also believes in what he’s selling.

That’s because he has had help. He believes in the product that Beef O’Brady’s provides, and his wife, Heather, is a culinary school graduate and the former owner of a restaurant in Louisville.

He also has gone through the chain’s 7-week, in-store training program, much of it under the wing of Rich Reeves, who owns the successful store in Middletown and several others.

“We’re patterning a lot of what we do after his store,” Kohler says. “He knows what he’s doing. One of his assistants is here helping with our training.”

But make no mistake, Kohler knows what he wants to do: open a restaurant that is very much linked to Shelby County. It’s as obvious as his walls.

Beef O’Brady’s is a sports bar in concept, and in this 4,000-square-foot space, the rich mahogany tables and dark upholstery are surrounded by earth-hued walls that hold 29 flat-screen TV sets and a growing assortment of Shelby County memorabilia.

“Right there, on either side of those TVs,” Kohler says, pointing at the eastern wall, “we are having huge [4-foot] logos put up for both high schools – Shelby County Rockets and Collins Titans.”

His wife has been out scouring the community to gather photos, pennants, posters, newspaper clippings and anything else that speaks to the heroes and heritage of Shelby County sports. He has reached out to colleges and universities.

And that, in microcosm, explains what Kohler wants to do. He wants the place to be a hangout for families and especially families that like sports.

Those 29 TVs, which vary in sizes from 32-inch to 60-inch, are connected to 11 Direct TV feeds that will allow a wide variety of events to be televised.

There’s a separate game room for kids that will include a variety of arcade games, Kohler – a knowing father of 3-year-old Jenna – has made space in there so parents can eat while the kids play.

“We are a family restaurant,” he says. “We have a full bar and will feature eight beers on tap. But we won’t sell shots. And we’re non-smoking. I’ve heard both sides of that.”

He also wants to cater to private groups and has a separate community room – which celebrates such facilities as the Luci Center – that can hold up to 30. It has two TVs that are linked and can be hooked to a laptop, so that they can be used for group presentations.

The place bustles today, with artwork being hung, games installed and Kohler’s 40 new employees, half of them full-time, going through constant training, bar stocking and culinary coaching for those who will do the cooking.

Despite her experience, Heather Giles-Kohler is staying away from that. “She’s handling the community part of it,” Jon Kohler said.

Amid all of that, the new TVs are tuned to various cable channels, including the horse racing networks.

Kohler says is very glad he will be open for Derby Day. “We really, really wanted to be open for March Madness,” he said. “But there were construction issues that were unavoidable. We just couldn’t make it. But I’m glad we’ll be open for the Derby.”

Perhaps an homage to that coincidence is a large, framed print of Secretariat, signed by jockey Ron Turcotte – “a gift from Reeves,” Kohler said – which will hang in a prominent place.

The success it embodies sort of symbolizes Kohler’s race to change careers, care for his family and give birth to a brand new enterprise.

“This is a great experience,” he says. “The community has just been wonderful. Our partners at CUB bank have been fabulous. We’re very excited to open.

  Beef O’Brady’s

1637 Midland Trail

Hours: M-Sat, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday noon-9.

Serves: Variety of foods, appetizers and drinks.

Happy hour: 3-6 p.m. daily

Features: 29 TV sets, 11 satellite hookups.

Special facilities: Game room, meeting room for up to 30.