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The Corner Bar, Central Wine & Spirits

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The Corner Bar at the Peabody has gotten a menu makeover.

For starters, drink prices have dropped dramatically: $2.50 for domestic beers, $3.50 for imports, and $4 to $6 for mixed drinks and wine.

"We wanted to appeal more to local customers, not just to businessmen and -women who are on expense accounts," says Kelly Earnest, the hotel's director of public relations. "In order to do that, we lowered our prices."

As for eats, the Corner Bar also has new appetizers and sandwiches with ample portions for sharing. "It's the first time the Corner Bar has had its own distinct menu," Earnest says. "Our executive chefs came up with a wonderful selection of upscale bar food."

Most of the menu falls within the $7 to $10 range, including barbecue-pork-stuffed potato skins with sour cream and slaw, crispy chili-glazed chicken wings, and tomato, basil, and Asiago bruschetta.

The menu tops out at $12 for a Philly cheese steak sandwich or Kobe beef sliders with cheddar, bacon, and chips.

The Peabody's extensive martini menu also is available at the Corner Bar. "We featured a dozen different chocolate martinis during February," Earnest says, "and we will probably do something special for spring."

The Corner Bar, 149 Union (529-4140)

Ask liquor store owner Charles Finley about his new location in the Poplar Center near Ronnie Grisanti, and he answers with a little laugh and a shake of his head. "We like it here, but we never thought a move could get so complicated," he says.

Finley, who operated Central Avenue Liquor for almost a decade, had hoped to stay in the neighborhood after his lease expired. He purchased and refurbished the former Memphis Humane Society on Central and planned to relocate his liquor store there. But he ran into legal problems when he applied for a new business license.

"The Humane Society building is 1,100 feet from a school, instead of the 1,500 feet required," Finley says. "We appealed, but we couldn't change the decision."

Renamed Central Wine and Spirits to reflect the new location and more upscale product mix, Finley and daughter Sharon Gowen, who manages the store, still offer a diverse assortment of wine, beer, and liquor plus plenty of personal service Monday through Saturday until 11 p.m.

"We are talking to people in the neighborhood to figure out what they like," Finley says. For instance, one customer wrote "more higher-end wines" on the store's request list, and Finley already has obliged. "At our old location, everyone wanted inexpensive magnums," Finley says. "Here, it's about the $30 bottle of wine."

For now, Finley is busy stocking, working with distributors, and installing a new storefront sign. "It looks fantastic, especially at night," he says. "We're hoping people drive by, see the sign, and come in."

Central Wine and Spirits, 2847 Poplar, Suite 103 (323-0630)

They came (at least 2,000), they tasted (more than 30 soups), and they voted (for their favorite). So which restaurant won the premium award at the 20th Annual Youth Villages Soup Sunday? Rafferty's, for its signature cream of potato soup topped with cheese and chopped bacon.

"Everyone loved it," said Peter Abell, development manager for Youth Villages. "Rafferty's is not new to the event, but the restaurant has never won best soup before."

Panera Bread was another new winner and newcomer to the fund-raiser, winning "best bread" with two varieties of baguette: French and whole grain. Draper's Catering dished up an old favorite (bread pudding with vanilla sauce) to win "best dessert."

Old Venice also won honors, not for its rosemary garlic bread (yum!) but for its lively employees who took home the "spirit award" for their festive tasting table.

The final award — "best specialty item" — went to perennial favorite The Half Shell for its lobster bruschetta, a fitting tribute to owner Danny Sumrall, one of Soup Sunday's original organizers. "Danny always brings a ton of food," Abell says. "He wants everyone to have all they can eat."

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