It’s “been in the back of my head for awhile,” Jeff Gosey said of bringing another live music venue to downtown Fort Smith. That’s part of the reason he’s opening Harry’s Downtown on July 13 at 507 Garrison Ave.
Gosey, owner of AJ’s Oyster House in the Brunwick Place in downtown Fort Smith, said he’s investing $100,000-plus in the venue that briefly housed Wishbone’s. The operation will employ 10 to 15 people full-time, and feature a music side and a bar side, he said. The music side will be non-smoking, with smoking allowed on the bar side.
The name is a tribute to the late Harry Schwartz, a downtown property owner who in the 1980s and 1990s owned the Hamburger Barn, one of the few restaurants in downtown Fort Smith.
“[Schwartz] was my mentor. He kind of introduced me to the [restaurant] business,” Gosey said.
About 175 people will be able to see live music in the roughly 4,500-square-foot space, Gosey said. He plans to have live music 3 to 4 nights a week, and is now working on “sound treatments” and other measures to best support live music. The venue is just large enough to bring in “some good touring bands, and still have the local and regional talent,” said Gosey, who also is involved with the Peacemaker Festival, now in it’s fourth year of bringing national bands to downtown Fort Smith.
“I’ve been doing music in Fort Smith for a long time. … Fort Smith is lagging behind Northwest Arkansas when it comes to the national and regional talent. And being able to provide a room for that has been in the back of my head for awhile. I’ve been watching downtown Fort Smith, waiting for the right thing to open up,” Gosey said when asked about opening a second venture.
He credited the management team at AJ’s for running a good operation and allowing him the time to work on a second facility. AJ’s also will provide soups, gumbos and other easy dishes because Harry’s will not have a full kitchen. In addition to AJ’s food, the Harry’s menu will include a few simple sandwiches.
“Just enough food to keep you in the bar and not have to go around the corner for something to eat,” Gosey said.
The soft opening of July 13 will be followed by a bigger grand opening in mid-August “once we get the machine well oiled,” Gosey said. He’s confident the venue will be part of what he says is a busier downtown Fort Smith.
“I’ve lived and worked downtown for 20 years, 25-plus. It’s as good today as I’ve ever seen it. … Hell, even the Farmers Market is killing it.”