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Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse reopens with COVID-19 safety measures

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 9/2/2020 Mary Hance, Nashville Tennessean
a house that has a umbrella in front of a building: Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018.

After more than five months of being closed due to the coronavirus, Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse, one of Nashville's oldest restaurants, reopened its dining rooms and bar this week. 

"It has been a challenge," said third generation owner Mike Kelly, who said his core staff is all back and most of the waitstaff was back in action for the Tuesday night reopening.

Kelly said dining rooms would be spaced at half capacity as required by the city of Nashville, meaning his facility could seat 100 people instead of the usual full house of 200.

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"I think the patio is going to work great. We have a lot of patio seating," he said, adding that the dining rooms could be properly spaced and that he also has several rooms that could accommodate small private parties. "People should be comfortable about the spacing."

The COVID-19 closure was only the second time the longstanding restaurant had had to endure an extended period of down time. The other was in 2016 when a fire shut the restaurant down temporarily.

Kelly admitted that with the months of COVID-19 closure that started March 17, it did cross his mind to close the 86-year-old restaurant that his grandfather started and that he has run for more than 30 years.

a group of people sitting at a table in a restaurant: The main dining area at Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean The main dining area at Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018.

"It's a tough industry. The restaurant business is a challenge on a good day, and with the half capacity rule, it is even tougher," he said.

"But I've got a really great staff — so many of them have been with me for 20, even 30 years. And friends want to come. They have given us great support. We have been really encouraged by people who don't want to lose this part of Nashville, and I've got a few more good years left in me."

The restaurant, which is known for quality steaks and seafood, generously-poured drinks and lively bar conversations, and its white-coated servers, is housed in a comfortable two-story turn-of-the-century home at 217 Louise Ave.

The steak house was started by Mike Kelly's grandfather, John Kelly, in September 1934, in the throes of the Great Depression and just a year after the repeal of prohibition.

After John Kelly's death, the restaurant was operated by Mike Kelly's uncle Jimmy Kelly and father Bill Kelly, until the late 1980s when he took the reins.

"We are glad to be opening back up. There is nothing like it in Nashville," Mike Kelly said. "We need to keep the tradition going."

Reach Ms. Cheap at 615-259-8282 or mscheap@tennessean.com. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/mscheap, and at Tennessean.com/mscheap, and on Twitter @Ms_Cheap, and catch her every Thursday at 11 a.m. on WTVF-Channel 5’s “Talk of the Town.”

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse reopens with COVID-19 safety measures

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