Once upon a time, when the world was younger, and the only bike lanes were bumpy sidewalks, legendary Memphis bar and grille owner, Neil "The Fatman" Heins, was forced to bid an unexpected adieu as a colorful era in Midtown went up in smoke. Ironically, just hours before his place was burned to the ground last August, Heins had hosted a successful benefit event for a musician's ailing daughter. Midtown's favorite ambassador was feeling the love not knowing he'd soon need a helping hand himself.
"Everybody gets along and everybody wants to show a little love and everybody needs a little help sometimes," said Heins in 2011.
Now 11 months later a new Neil's has risen from the ashes of despair to gloriously land in East Memphis at Yorkshire Square. No one is more genuinely surprised than Neil himself.
"I kept saying over and over that it's gonna be okay. Because it has to be. After two or three days it sorta sunk in. But, saying that it had to be. It sorta came true…It's nothing short of a miracle. And a lot of people have stood up for us. We owe everybody and their brother, but we're open."
Starting Friday, Heins will stage a three-day celebration in honor of the official grand opening of the new Neil's at what was the former location of Whole Hog Barbeque. Admittedly, Heins has been in operation for a couple of weeks that included staging another star-studded benefit event in memory of musician James Lott. Plenty of long time Neil's patrons made the trek from Midtown and were not disappointed.
"Neil's is a Midtown institution. Now he's an East Memphis institution. Same crowd. Same great food. Actually, I told Neil when I walked in here, as soon as you get inside this place you feel you're right back at home. Just like being at Neil's in Midtown," says MCVB Exec Dir. Kevin Kane.
With an improved menu, more televisions, a patio, longer bar and mall wide parking, everything old is new again.
"That's what a guy told me. He says Neil it's great..plenty of parking. It's really nice to turn around from the bar and look and see your car," adds Heins.
So, dry those tears Midtowners, using a little more gas, we can once more bask in the presence of Andy-Girl and Jerry and play tunes on the jukebox. You know the good times will roll as long as the "Fatman" sings.
"It's just a whole new nother adventure for us and I'm happy to get going with it."