Monday update

Today is going to be a crazy day.

No, let me rephrase that. Today already IS a crazy day… as of five minutes into the day, when six or seven loud gunshots were fired near Main and Monroe. Who else heard ’em?

Keep an eye on the Shelby County Health Department’s health directive page, as Health Directive No. 16 and Face Mask Order No. 4 are expected to drop this morning. A draft of the directive that was posted to social media indicated it would go into effect 12:01 AM today, four minutes before I heard the gunshots. I seriously doubt they will retroactively declare the directive into effect, meaning it probably won’t kick in earlier than tomorrow.

Governor Lee signed an executive order last night limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people for the next 30 days. Homes and churches are excluded.

Fans will not be allowed to attend basketball games at FedExForum for the time being, the arena announced yesterday.

The Save Our Restaurants: Memphis Protest happens today at 1 PM at the Shelby County government building, 160 N. Main, 1 PM. This one could get heated. There are very legit arguments on both sides. Restaurant owners are rightfully tired of being picked on, and at the same time if hospitals hit 100% capacity people will die needlessly.

I agree a Safer at Home is probably necessary, but I’d be more inclined to support it if the politicians pushing it the hardest walked the walk, in addition to talking the talk. What do I mean by that? Donate every penny of salary earned at any job to charity for the period the Safer at Home order is in effect. Show that you stand with our restaurant brethren by giving up your income.

The teams for December 31’s Liberty Bowl have been announced: Tennessee vs. good ole West Virginny. I think this is the perfect year to get a Vols appearance at the bowl out of the way, the year when their fans can’t travel to Memphis (or if they do, they won’t have much to do once they get here). As for West Virginny, it’s a shame we won’t see their fans here. I had a blast hanging out with them at Bardog before the 2014 game.

A federal advisory panel recommended who should be eligible to receive the second batch of COVID-19 vaccines when they are released later this month: Those at least 75 years old, firefighters, police, teachers, mail carriers, and grocery store workers. Health care workers and nursing home residents were allotted the first batch.

Please support local restaurants as much as you can in the next two weeks by ordering takeout (or dining in if that’s still allowed). I have some Bardog spaghetti & meatballs in the fridge right now. I noticed there was no South Main Pajama Pub Crawl that normally makes Bardog its first stop yesterday. Such a shame!

That’ll do it for this post. I will be back later today with health directive news, if there is any.

Sunday update: A visit to Little Bettie pizza kitchen @ Wiseacre 2

First things first before we get to pizza. There will be a Save Our Restaurants Protest tomorrow, Monday, December 21 at 1 PM at 160 N. Main. Below is the text of the announcement on Facebook:

The Shelby Co. Health Department Directive 16 is calling to shut down Memphis restaurants once again without any protection for payroll or protection for the businesses. Restaurants are the one of the largest lifelines of our city and so many people’s livelihoods. SCHD’s own data shows that spread of COVID19 from restaurants is less than 5% of all cases.
Restaurants who are following CDC guidelines set forth by the CDC shouldn’t suffer another closure, and may not make it through to see the new year if this closure is put in place.
Let’s show up, speak up, and demand competent, thoughtful, and caring action from our leadership. Bring signs to hold up for support. #SaveOurRestaurants. No megaphones permitted.
Time: 1PM (Sharp). Be there early if needed.
Location: 160 N Main, Memphis, TN 38103

Mid-afternoon yesterday, we decided we were hungry for pizza. As your number-one source of news and information about The Edge District, I suggested we drive out to Slim & Husky’s and give the new hip-hop themed pizzeria a try.

Would you believe there was a line out the door, and down the street? In the 43-degree rain? Must be some damn good pizza in there! We decided to wait for another day though.

Luckily, we had an excellent plan B… another new pizza kitchen, with beer! We turned around and headed to Little Bettie Pizza kitchen inside Wiseacre 2’s taproom in the South Main district, parking in the brewery’s back lot on Abel, the street just east of B.B. King that runs parallel.

Okay. Quick side story. Longtime readers of this blog will remember Sharp Dressed Bum. He was one of Downtown’s professional panhandlers during the 2000s decade. He separated himself from the other bums by wearing snazzy club shirts and driver caps. One day I watched SDB from the window at the Flying Saucer as he approached tourist after tourist, telling them he was homeless (which wasn’t true) and asking for a donation.

Then something odd happened. After receiving one such donation, SDB closed up shop and began walking south, now ignoring passersby. I put a coaster on top of my beer glass and told the server I’d be right back. From a safe distance, I followed SDB to see where he’d go. He turned left on Peabody Place, then turned back south on B.B. King, still named Third Street at that time. He passed Beale and MLK (then Linden), then turned left on Vance, followed by a quick right on Abel. where he went into da crack house, his real motivation for panhandling. Fast-forward 12 years later and a fabulous brewery stands where the crack house used to be. Progress!

Anyway, we got to the taproom and ordered that new beer that is like an Arnold Palmer iced tea shandy (I forget its name). With Parker and Dylan, the two founding fathers of Silly Goose wood-fired pizzas, among the professionals in Little Bettie’s kitchen, we had high expectations for the food.

… However, those expectations had to wait a bit. We were told the kitchen was closed 2 to 4 PM as they change over from lunch to dinner. Okay, in this respect Little Bettie made a call to my friend Air Traffic Mike’s 1-800-BAD-IDEA hotline. I understand that such a break makes sense at a fine dining establishment like Catherine & Mary’s or Bishop. It does not make any sense in a pizza kitchen in a brewery! Especially on the weekend. That break is costing them sales. Fortunately, it was 3:15 when we got the news, so we only had to wait 45 minutes – or as I looked at it, one additional beer.

We started off with onion rings, and Perjorie T. Roll was very excited about the dusting of herbs that topped the rings and the dip.

For the main event, I selected the Beefy Bettie pizza, which comes with red sauce, pepperoni, bacon, Tuscan sausage, four cheese, Calabrian chilis, and shaved garlic.

Good stuff. I love a good meatzza. The crust was not too different from what comes out of the pizza oven at the Silly Goose, and although New Haven-style pizza is touted as not having a puffy edge, this one did. Would definitely get this again.

Check out the full menu. On my next visit, I want to try a Whoa, It’s Todd with red sauce, mushroom conserva, roasted garlic, four cheese, and spicy salami.

A draft of proposed Health Directive No. 16 circulated on social media yesterday. It called for a return to most of the provisions of the Safer at Home order (incorrectly labeled “Phase 1” by The Daily Memphian) in which nonessential businesses would be closed Monday, December 21-Sunday, January 3. Restaurants would be limited to to-go and delivery only. The Health Department released a statement yesterday that the directive going around was a draft version, and the restrictions therein are not necessarily the ones that will be in the final release.

No doubt the draft copy was leaked to the media by one of the suburban mayors. I find that hilarious.

If you want a small piece of good news in all of this, the DM reports that ICU bed usage has dropped from 98% to 96% and acute care bed usage from 95% to 93%.

Here’s this week’s COVID week in review by data analyst James Aycock.

Tomorrow is National Hamburger Day, so make your plans for Roxie’s, Huey’s, Flying Saucer, Kooky Canuck, Dyer’s, or whatever place is your favorite Downtown burger joint… that is, if those places are allowed to be open tomorrow.

RIP Soul Burger :(

That’s the news for now. Back tomorrow with more, or maybe later today if the Health Department hands down the directive.

Saturday update

Big news came yesterday about Memphis in May’s 2021 schedule.

  • Music Fest will be postponed until May 2022. It is unlikely enough vaccinations for COVID-19 will have been administered by the April 30-May 2 weekend to make 50,000 people gathering in a park safe.
  • BBQ Fest will happen May 12-May 15 “with strict COVID19 protocols in place. The World Championship will be somewhat different and smaller with capacity restrictions that may be in place at that time. Team applications are now open.”
  • Great American River Run will be May 29

Sucks about Music Fest, but it was the proper call. Since I’m on the board of a BBQ team, I will avoid voicing any opinions here before consulting with the rest of the board. Believe me, though, the opinions I’m not yet voicing are strong ones.

From the DM: Memphis looks at pre-Christmas  lockdown; suburbs say no way. I hate, hate, hate the idea of a lockdown but could support it if it were time-limited. The massive Thanksgiving surge was no doubt predictive of a second surge over Christmas, and with local ICU beds at 98% capacity that’s a problem. I could support a lockdown and/or a curfew December 23-January 3 or thereabouts. Just don’t make it open-ended like the original Safer at Home house arrest was. It’s not fair to do an order of indefinite length without plans from the federal government to keep people’s income in place.

Cocozza has decided to temporarily end indoor and patio dining after this weekend. They’ll still have takeout, curbside, and delivery options, and their gran & go meals will still be in stores. Patrick & Deni felt that given the rising numbers, it was the right decision to protect the health of their staff and customers. Most of their staff will be furloughed after tomorrow. Go see them and TIP BIG this weekend. They couldn’t do Brunch with Santa this year, but there’s nothing stopping YOU from being Santa when you dine there.

Cocozza is not the only restaurant making that decision. The CA is keeping a running list of closures. Grecian Gourmet is on that list as well, and I know that River Time Market & Deli is closed until at least the end of the holidays.

How about some good news for a change? From the Flying Saucer:

Weekend Special
We’ve brought back the delicious Get Lucky Burger for the weekend. It’s a bleu cheese infused patty with garlic herb mayo, Irish whiskey glaze, Irish cream candied bacon, Guinness cheese sauce, and arugula. You don’t want to miss this one!

The Atlanta Hawks host the Memphis Grizzlies for their final NBA pre-season game tonight at 7 PM. NBATV will broadcast the game.

The FDA has given the green light to a second COVID-19 vaccine, this one from Moderna. I watched a press conference this week with Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, an infectious disease expert. He was asked, which vaccine should I get, the Pfizer one or the Moderna one? He said that they are both on the order of 95% effective, and therefore the one you should get is the one that’s available.

Sources I follow on Twitter seem to believe the Safer at Home order has already been drafted.

Trying to decide if I want to get out one last time before the order goes into effect, or just stay home and read. Back tomorrow with more news, if there is any news. Things get slow around the holidays.

Friday update

Tomorrow you’ll be able to shop with Santa at AutoZone Park from 9 AM to 1 PM. Come shop for your Cardinals fans and pick out game-worn jerseys, autographed memorabilia, bobbleheads, T-shirts, throwback logo gear and more. Kids can get their picture taken with socially distanced snowglobe Santa.

Also tomorrow, Jerry Lee Lewis’ Cafe on Beale Street will host a Christmas Pop-Up Market from 1 to 5 PM. They’ll have 20 local small businesses there, along with Christmas brunch and drinks.

River Time Market & Deli will be closed until after the holidays. With new guidance from the White House on COVID precautions (see below), Pam & Bill simply do not feel it is safe to keep such a little space open. An understandable decision. Much love & holiday cheer to them.

Elizabeth Horner, a contributor to I Love Memphis, paid a visit to Slim & Husky’s, the new hip-hop pizzeria in The Edge District, this week.

Char Magnifico and Vintage play The Vault tonight at 6.

If you’re a Daily Memphian subscriber, check out photos from the soft opening of Little Bettie pizza kitchen inside Wisacre 2. Little Bettie is open to the public beginning today.

Wiseacre’s Broad Avenue location will have its 2020 Astronaut Status release party today 1-10.

COVID task force press conference recap – Thursday, December 17

Presenters were Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph, and City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen.

Dr. H said that the reproductive rate is 1.06 (although, COVID Act Now shows it at 1.25). Today we have 6044 active known infections (although the total number of infections may be as much as 5 times higher). At the current reproduction rate, that would lead to 7138 new cases in 30 days. We must do whatever we can to get that exponential growth down.

Health Directive No. 16 was planned to mainly clarify language in the previous directive. However, because of the explosive growth in new case numbers, additional measures are being considered to slow things down. The measures would have the intention of curbing socializing during the Christmas holiday. There’s a COVID task force meeting today where health officials will present their recommendations to the mayors, with a new health directive coming as early as Monday morning.

Dr. Randolph shared a couple of recommendations from the White House COVID task force:

  • If you’re over 65 or have comorbidities (heart conditions, high blood pressure, respiratory issues, diabetes), you should not enter any venue where any person is without a mask on. Have your groceries, prescriptions, and meals delivered.
  • If you’re under 40, and you have been around anyone not in your immediate household who did not have a mask on, assume you were affected and get tested immediately.

Chief McGowen gave an analogy: Imagine AutoZone Park was packed to the rafters, and when the event let out, everyone went back into the community, infected with COVID-19. Would you take precautions? That’s where we are in terms of the virus. Testing is readily available every day (except Dec. 24-27) at Tiger Lane, and it’s open 3 PM-8 PM to make it convenient for those who work in the rat race and get off around 5. This weekend there will be testing at Tiger Lane and Poplar Healthcare on Hacks Cross 8:30-5:00 Saturday and Sunday. More testing locations

Hey, Chief, let me ask you one again… why is there no free testing in the 38103? I am not walking to Crump and Fourth, with a reputation for being one of the most dangerous ‘hoods in the entire U.S., at 5:30 (40 minutes after sunset) on a Wednesday or Friday to get a test.

Chief McGowen said the plan is for first responders – police, firefighters, and EMTs – to be vaccinated right after Christmas.

That’s it for today. Back tomorrow with more news.

Thursday update

The Blind Bear has announced a safe and socially distanced 9th birthday celebration the evening of next Wednesday, December 23. The patio will be heated and ready for business. On the other side of the trolley tracks, safely distanced from customers, Brimstone Jones will play. There will be $4 drafts, $5 Bear Balls, and Chef Steph Cook will brainstorm some yummy menu specials for the event.

Wikipedia has a page about New Haven-style pizza which is the style that will be baked at Little Bettie, the pizza kitchen inside Wiseacre 2.

Chef Michael Patrick of Rizzo’s posted the following:

Attention! Attention!!
So gift card sale happening Friday 12pm to 3 pm.
$25.00 gift card gets you $10 more dollars.
$50.00 gift card gets you $ 15.00 extra dollars.
$100.00 gift card gets you $25.00 more added on.
Anyone who buys a gift card, will also be entered into a drawing for a dinner for 2 on the house. More details to follow tomorrow.

The Memphis Flyer has a piece on Desiree Robinson, the 83-year-old matriarch of Cozy Corner who is a new member of the BBQ Hall of Fame.

DeAndre Williams, a Memphis Tigers 6’9″ forward who transferred from Evansville, was ruled immediately eligible to play yesterday and played last night vs. Tulane. He contributed 10 points in the Tigers’ 80-74 victory.

Holly lists 4 ways you can enjoy Christmas at Bass Pro at the Pyramid on the I Love Memphis blog.

Today is Wright Brothers Day. On this day in 1903, the brothers flew the first successful airplane. 80 years later, they inspired the unforgettable words of Morris Day, “The Wright Brothers can’t fuck with that. Jerome! Bring me my hat,” on The Time’s single “The Bird.”

The proposed ordinance for a $50 fine for those not wearing their masks in public businesses and gatherings has been amended by the County Commission. The revisions indicate that only the owner of the business or organizer of the gathering would be fined, not the individual. However, the owner/organizer could be fined $50 per violation. So if 10 people in a restaurant were found without masks on, the owner could face a fine of $500.

Here’s a link to data analyst James Aycock’s COVID mid-week in review.

The health department is asking everyone to fill out a 5-minute survey about attitudes toward vaccines, masking, and the virus. The survey is available in English and Spanish.

That’ll do it for today. The COVID-19 task force is at noon and I will try to give it a listen. Back this afternoon or tomorrow with a recap and more news.

Wednesday update

Let’s get the daily news out of the way, and then we’ll get on to the summary of yesterday’s COVID-19 task force press conference, which turned in an unexpected direction.

From The Daily Memphian: A pizza shack in Wiseacre has familiar folks behind it. Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman will operate Little Bettie. The kitchen opens today and will serve New Haven-style pizza (no puffy edge), chicken wings, onion rings, Sicilian pizza, pretzel bites, and a few salads.

The article alludes to a couple of other specials happening at Andrew Michael restaurants Downtown:

  • Burgers and burgundy at Bishop on Mondays
  • Takeout pizza kits and $1 oysters at the Gray Canary on Thursdays

Hot wing food truck New Wing Order now has its own YouTube channel.

The Memphis Flyer has a Q&A session with the owner of new pizza joint Slim and Husky’s out in The Edge District. They have build-your-own pizzas and gourmet cinnamon rolls.

Pontotoc Lounge closed for the time being on Sunday, leaving popular Sunday brunch bartender B-RAD without a gig. Good news: He will join his longtime partner-in-crime Joe behind the bar at Atomic Rose on Sundays. Go see them for brunch and stick around for Pattie O’ Furniture’s drag bingo.

The Memphis Tigers have a new craft beer partner. Tiger Tail, a new craft beer from Grind City Brewing, will be the official craft beer of Tigers athletics. A portion of the sales of Tiger Tail will go to the athletic department, an important additional revenue stream during COVID. Also, a scholarship will be created.

UT president and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd has joined the Memphis Redbirds ownership group.

COVID-19 task force press conference

We had been told to expect a new health directive this week, probably with even tighter restrictions on the department’s favorite whipping post, restaurants. Instead, the health department punted the ball over to the mayors.

Dr. Haushalter reminded everyone that they look at four main areas of concern when deciding if restrictions need to be imposed. The first is the data concerning the virus itself.

  • 7-day rolling new case average of 670
  • 14-day rolling new case average of 558
  • Reproductive rate is 1.08
  • 5434 active cases in the county, each with the potential to infect 1.06 people
  • Positivity rate 12.1%
  • We are now seeing a surge related to the Thanksgiving holiday
  • The surge is a predictor of what we can expect to see over the Christmas holiday

The second area of concern is testing. We have a ton of free testing right now (NONE of which, I’ll point out, is convenient to people in the Downtown core) and anyone who wants a test is encouraged to get one. Testing sites

The third area is hospital capacity. Dr. H says we need to ensure that people who need treatment, including non-COVID treatment, are able to receive it. They are looking at ways for students in the pharmacy, medical, and nursing fields to be trained to assist and to receive credit for duties performed.

The fourth area is public health capacity. The health department is working with the labs to make sure positive tests are reported quickly, allowing them to get people affected into isolation and quarantine early.

Dr. Bruce Randolph, County Health Officer, took the podium. He pointed out that Health Directive No. 15 included tripwires – numbers that, when hit, indicate certain actions can be taken. We have hit the tripwire of 650 new cases/day. However, he said, “Fellow citizens, it’s up to you as an individual. Up to you to make sure to avoid crowds. That you mask when in a restaurant.” (A sign that restaurants would still be open.) The health department’s position is that they feel they have done all they can short of a drastic measure like a return to Safer at Home.

Dr. H came back up. She said they are drafting new Health Directive No. 16 with a focus on clarifying language in Directive 15, as well as clarifying certain types of events. However, she said, the urgency to release the directive is not as great as people thought. It may not be issued this week.

Dr. Randolph: Safer at Home was issued by the mayors. He said the health department views public health as the intersection of health and policy – specifically, politics. The health department does not make policy. They would recommend Safer at Home to the mayors if the average number of new cases a day hits 750, but public officials will have to endorse it.

I love the decision. It punts the ball over to Mayors Strickland and Harris, both of who hate to appear to be the bad guy. (Have you noticed they only show up to the task force press conferences when there’s a piece of good news to report?) It stops short of closing restaurants to indoor dining, when they aren’t even the major cause of spread (going to work sick is).

Dr. H said there was enforcement of the current health directive this past weekend, and 6 more businesses were closed. WREG has the list.

WREG also reports that Shelby County Commissioners have called a special meeting for today to vote on whether to institute a $50 fine on people not wearing a mask. I fully support this. View the proposed ordinance

That’s it for now. Back tomorrow with more news.

Tuesday update

Exciting news for those of you in East Memphis:

You asked Memphis! We delivered! Cocozza Take & Bake NOW available at Highpoint Grocery! Pick up Spinach Manicotti, Chicken Parm, Eggplant Parm & Chicken Arrabbiata for dinner tonight! #cocozza #cocozzamemphis #cocozzatakeandbake #cocozzatohighpoint #majesticgrille #pandemicpopup #takeandbake #dinnertonight #americanitalianfood #highpointmarket #highpointmemphis #highpointterrace

The Flying Saucer has announced expanded hours for burgers and beers. The brewpub is now open 11 AM-10 PM seven days a week. Of course, with a new health directive on the horizon, those hours may not last for long.

998 new COVID-19 cases in Shelby County yesterday, yet the health directive was not put in place yesterday as rumored. I have to admit, I don’t understand what the delay is. Although I certainly am not going to be happy about the additional restrictions on our freedoms, I understand the potential of overwhelming the hospitals makes them necessary.

Last call: If you’re interested in buying the historic Earnestine & Hazel’s dive bar building, you have until January 15 to get your offer in.

CDC Director Redfield said this week he thinks there’s the potential for 100 million Americans to be vaccinated by March 1, and another 100 million by June 1, with just the Pfizer vaccine. If the Moderna vaccine gets approval and ships, even more vaccinations will be possible by June. The population of the U.S. is around 330 million.

Slider Inn Downtown has reduced its hours and laid off 35 people. Starting this week, the restaurant will be closed Monday-Wednesday, and will be open 11 AM-10 PM Thursday-Sunday. Brunch will now be available Saturday and Sunday 11 AM-3 PM. Bands performing live music will be moved to the upstairs loft to follow COVID-19 protocols.

Elmwood Cemetery hosts an online seminar Cemetery Work: How Cleaning Monuments Brought Me Joy tonight at 6. Sheena Barnett will tell the story of how she was looking something to fill her time after the pandemic forced her out of her job. She volunteered to do stone cleaning work at Elmwood and it turned into a passion.

The Downtown YMCA has a hiring event this morning at 10.

This Quora answer to a question about narcissistic personality disorder is the best I have read. The answerer is a life coach who helps people who have been victimized by narcissists/narcopaths. In particular, the “Threat to Relationships” section absolutely nails it.

That’s it for today. I will listen to the noon COVID-19 press conference and be back either this afternoon or tomorrow morning with a recap.

Monday update

Pro tip: Go see Chef Steph Cook at Blind Bear for dinner this week (or takeout if the health department shuts down dining in). Yesterday I had his pasta special and it was PHENOMENAL. It exceeded even the high expectations I had.

This is alligator andouille sausage, tasso ham, and shrimp pasta in a slightly spicy cream sauce with tomatoes and green onions. Delicious. Bonus points to Steph for asking, “Has Perjorie tried it yet? What does she think?” Trolls like foods that are the same color as their hair, so she was particularly excited about the green onions.

The Memphis Tigers have accepted an invitation to the Montgomery Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, where they will play Florida Atlantic University. The game will be on Wednesday, December 23 at 6 PM and will be televised on ESPN.

I’m hearing that the new health directive may be issued today, in response to the disturbing number of new cases reported over the weekend: 930 on Saturday and 695 yesterday.

That’s all for now. Back tomorrow or maybe later today.

Sunday update

The Shelby County Health Department reported a record 930 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. In case you missed my midday update yesterday, a source on the Shelby County COVID-19 task force said that a new directive is being prepared, to be issued this week, to address the rising number of new cases.

Here’s James Aycock’s COVID week in review for Shelby County.

What will the new restrictions be? My guess is they will ban indoor dining, since that’s what is being done in other communities such as New York City and Los Angeles.

Country music legend Charley Pride died at age 86 this weekend.

Blind Bear special today: Black Sheep Meats alligator andouille and tasso ham pasta with asparagus, red peppers, and onion.

Please consider giving gift cards to your favorite restaurants this holiday season. They so badly need the support right now. Especially give gift cards to restaurants that are hit hardest by having to close five hours earlier than usual under the current regulations.

Also, please support The Peanut Shoppe on Main Street. They open on Sundays during the month of December for your holiday shopping convenience. The lack of foot traffic on Main this year has hurt their sales. You can order online if you don’t want to venture outside. We all need to treat ourselves this year, and some candy, chocolate, and nuts are a great way to do it.

That’s it for this post. Back tomorrow if there’s any news to report.