The Buccaneer, a venerable Midtown dive bar, has a new owner today. Jonathan Kiersky, the low-key impresario whose stint as owner and operator of the Hi-Tone in the 2000s made it one of the city’s premiere music venues, announced via Facebook that he was taking over The Buccaneer effective immediately.
“It’s a Memphis staple, and a very important part of the Memphis music community,” says Kiersky. “I thought it was necessary that stayed open and kept doing what it was doing.”
Tucked away on Monroe Avenue off Cleveland, and located inside a former house, The Buccaneer has retained much of its old-school Memphis charm as it transitioned from neighborhood watering hole into a gathering place where Memphis musicians feel free to experiment and play their latest work in a welcoming, low-stress environment. But that reputation has been threatened in recent months, as many musicians such as guitarist David Cousar have posted on social media that they were boycotting the establishment due to increasingly erratic and abusive behavior by the tiny venue’s management.
“I don’t really know about that,” says Keirsky. “I was living out of town at the time. I heard stupid Midtown rumors, but I can’t speak to that.”
Kiersky reported that he had been in secret negotiations to take over the bar beginning in early May, and received an unexpected phone call from proprietor Charles Lankford. “He called me this morning and said, ‘Hey, come get the keys.’”
For the future, Kiersky says he wants to restore The Buccaneer’s reputation as a welcoming establishment featuring cutting-edge Memphis music. “It’s not going to be much different than it was a year ago,” he says. “We’re going to have music seven days a week. The only thing that will probably change is that we’re going to implement some of the old Hi-Tone menu at the Buccaneer. We’ll probably be bringing back things like Monday Wing Night, Tuesday Taco Night, stuff like that. Don’t know if we can do the pizzas there—I know there will be questions about that—but we’re going to try to figure it out. But mostly it will be the same…a lot of local bands, a lot of touring bands.”
The unexpected announcement that a Memphis nightlife legend was returning to the game to rescue an ailing institution spread quickly through social media. “I love it. It’s a little overwhelming today, but that’s to be expected. We’re going to bring back a lot of the same bartenders and stuff. It’s good,” says Keirsky.
The Buccaneer will reopen under new management tonight at 5 PM with guitarist David Cousar as the first musical act under the new regime.