Black Literature-Themed Lounge to Open in Downtown Memphis
By Rachel George
Cafe Lit is not the turn-up lounge you’d think unless you’re looking to be mentally stimulated and inspired by black art and literature.
Enjoy work from the phenomenal Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, W.E.B. Dubois, and other famed black writers. The wall decor and menu draw inspo from music, films, speeches, and other honorable works of art from other famous black artists.
Owners Pamela Cannon and Hulesy Britt hope to build a franchise based on Memphis’ history, creativity, and food scene with their three-story African-American literature-themed supper club.
“We are providing a venue not only for local entertainers, but it’s also a way for you to get a little piece of Memphis history from the creative side when you experience Lit,” Cannon told Commercial Appeal.
The menu will feature small plate options, pasta, gourmet coffee, desserts, and carefully selected wine. Cafe Lit intends to be open on weeknight and weekends.
The lounge will cover the first floor and basement, where singers-songwriters will grace the stage during open mic nights. Imagine Sam Cooke at the legendary Copacabana nightclub, that’s the kind of vibes they’re going for. The second and third floors are being turned into a cigar bar.
With a developmental loan from the Downtown Memphis Commission, the vacant building that will soon be home to Cafe Lit will get some much-needed upgrades, including a kitchen, bathroom, plumbing, new windows and doors, and an updated HVAC system. A DMC staff felt using the building as an entertainment venue could potentially add vibrancy to Madison Ave, known as the “The Wall Street of Memphis” in its earlier days.
“By adding activity and removing blight from this important corridor, 111 Madison will strengthen existing CCDC investment in the area, and continue to make Downtown’s core a better place for visitors and residents alike.”
Memphis residents saw the city’s first electric streetlight in 1881, on the intersection of Main and Madison. On the corner of Main, stood a two-year teacher’s college now known as the University of Memphis. Formerly named Street, Madison Ave runs east from Front Street to East Parkway.
The lounge is expected to open at the top of next year, once construction and renovations to the vacant building have begun. If things go well, Nashville and Birmingham, Alabama could be the next two locations added to the franchise.