Travis Hill and Natalee Miller, the new owners of Little Rock’s legendary White Water Tavern, say an outdoor beer garden seating 75 and featuring a stage for musicians is in the works for the rear of the tavern with plans to open in the fall.
It will be only one of many improvements the husband-and-wife team have made since buying the juke joint at 2500 W. Seventh St. last year.
They’ve expanded the beer taps from three to 10, tripled the liquor selection, installed a point-of-sale system and opened the tavern’s own kitchen with Shane Clinton as cook. Food was previously outsourced.
The menu is pretty straightforward bar food, though it does include a veggie burger, a garlic quinoa patty that likely would have puzzled early customers of the place, which opened in 1976.
Hill and Miller also added supports to the building, which had sat empty for 17 months, a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of White Water founder Paul Black, retired president of Redstone Construction Group of Little Rock, they installed new siding, which changed the profile of the building but eliminated rotten wood that was letting water enter the property.
They added electric circuits and a digitized soundboard, made the building wheelchair accessible, upgraded the heating and air conditioning and painted the bathrooms, taking care to preserve some of the more culturally significant graffiti.
In terms of spirits, said Matt White, booking agent and manager, “In the early days, Jameson flowed freely. These days we probably sell more Tito’s vodka than anything else.”
But beer, as it has from the tavern’s inception, sells well. Busch Light has overtaken Pabst Blue Ribbon, White said, adding, “We have nice beers as well,” not that there’s anything wrong with Busch Light or PBR. White Water veteran Kevin Creasy is the bar manager.
The pandemic shutdown was hard on White, who operated the tavern from 2007 to 2020, but with new owners Hill and Miller, he feels reinvigorated.
“With Travis and Natalee investing money in the actual structure, re-siding the building, working on just long overdue repairs, we and the community as a whole, we’re all excited and grateful about it.”