Restaurant 1620 Gets New Owners, Name and Renovations

You’ve likely heard that Restaurant 1620 in Little Rock closed June 30 for renovations. You also probably heard that the fine dining establishment has new owners. But did you know that among the new owners is Payne Harding, son of Rush Harding?

Rush Harding is the CEO of Little Rock investment banking firm Crews & Associates and a trustee of Conway’s University of Central Arkansas.

Did you know, too, that the 25-year-old eatery on Market Street is getting a new name, in addition to new owners and summer facelift?

That’s all true.

The younger Harding is a fresh graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He bought the restaurant June 30 with 1620 familiars Rick Qualls and Tim Morton, as well as with another Arkansan and new Culinary Institute of America grad, John Masching. The elder Harding is an investor in the venture, according to Rick Qualls.

The foursome plans to reopen 1620 in early September with a new name: 1620 Savoy.

Evette Brady, who has owned 1620 since 1991, is a close friend of the Harding family and is moving into semi-retirement, Qualls said.

Brady will cater privately and will continue to host cooking classes, but she’s cutting back due to health problems and won’t have any connection with 1620, he said.

Morton was already a 1620 chef when the restaurant closed and is Brady’s nephew.

Qualls was the front-of-the-house manager under Brady for about a year and will continue in that role. Qualls is the only owner who will not be serving as a chef.

All That Jazz
Restaurant 1620’s name is changing, Qualls said, in part because of alterations that are in the works.

“Savoy” was taken from the names of a famous hotel in London and a like named jazz club in New York, to suggest classiness and coming live jazz nights, he said.

The chefs will be unveiling a new menu in the fall, as well, although they will retain the 1620 classics like steak, fish and liver, according to Qualls.  “We’re going to keep the charm of the [original] restaurant,” he said.

The renovations will convert the existing private dining side of the eatery into a more casual dining area with its own bar and a nightclub vibe.

The club side will feature a live disc jockey and extended hours Friday and Saturday nights. Qualls, who has Broadway performance experience, may host a cabaret or two, as well.

The main dining room will still offer a classic, fine dining experience.

Further physical changes to the eatery will include an enclosed patio, waterfall and other “surprises in store,” Qualls said.