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Chris Tanner Cracks Shell on Oyster Bar PlansLock Icon

3 min read

You may have heard that Chris Tanner, owner of popular Little Rock restaurants Cheers in the Heights and Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill, is buying the Oyster Bar at 3003 W. Markham St. in Little Rock’s Stifft Station from owner Virginia Boyd.

Well, Whispers talked to Tanner last week about his plans for the legendary restaurant, prominent among them: an actual oyster bar to be located on the corner of Markham and Booker where the restaurant’s offices are now.

Tanner’s purchase of the restaurant, which includes the building, isn’t quite a done deal, he stresses, but it’s obvious the restaurateur has given deep thought to what he’d like to do with the project.

“We’re going to get in there and shake it up, potentially,” he said, the “potentially” appearing to be an acknowledgement of the fondness people have for the restaurant, which opened in 1975 and attracts more than its share of regulars. “It’s going to be done in phases,” though there are some changes he plans “right out of the gate that I can do just real easy,” starting with the menu.

“We’re going to have fresh chilled seafood, lobsters, crab, king crab,” Tanner said. “We’re going to have East and West Coast oysters. We’re going to have an actual oyster bar. We’ll be doing some healthier versions and everything will be hand done.”

Tanner wants to give the restaurant a facelift. “Just brighten it up. Get all the windows open again.”

He plans to add champagne and prosecco to the Oyster Bar’s beer and wine offerings. “Oysters and champagne go hand-in-hand.”

Tanner envisions “a cool happy hour” as well as live music in the form of maybe a singing guitarist — “somebody strummin’, hummin’” — in the restaurant side of the business from perhaps 5 to 7 p.m. “Nothing crazy. Just some guitar, a little singing.”

Folks who haven’t visited the Oyster Bar in a while may be disappointed to learn that the old Wurlitzer jukebox is gone. “They couldn’t find the parts,” Tanner said.

Revitalized Block

The block in which the Oyster Bar resides has perked up recently, with the $435,000 purchase by Little Rock real estate investor Brian Teeter of the 3,760-SF Buice drug store building at 3011 W. Markham St. and the adjacent 1,650-SF building at 3015 W. Markham.

The space at 3015 W. Markham is now home to Stone’s Throw Brewing’s Stifft Station Taproom, the second location of the Little Rock brewpub.

On the party room side of the Oyster Bar, Tanner says, he’s thinking about knocking down the cinder block building in the back and replacing it with a “cool covered deck.”

“We’re going to do it right.”

Tanner said he’d been researching the possibility of opening a seafood restaurant for the past year when the opportunity to buy the Oyster Bar arose. “I always thought Little Rock needed a better seafood joint.”

“We’re just going to try to have some fun and, you know, kick it,” he said. “This thing’s got my juices flowing again.”

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