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The three-story building that the Central Arkansas Library System and Moses Tucker Real Estate are negotiating to build at the corner of President Clinton Avenue and River Market Avenue — there's a parking lot and a police substation there now — has at least one known interested tenant: a restaurant developed by New York Culinary School alum Payne Harding. Harding's father, Rush Harding, is one of the investors in the new restaurant, which will be designed by the Atlanta restaurant design firm the Johnson Studio. If this comes to pass, and looks like other Johnson designs, it will be the most fetching eatery in town.
Harding is also one of the new owners of Restaurant 1620, which is being remodeled and will open under the name 1620 Savoy — in honor of the first integrated jazz club in New York — in "early fall," general manager Rick Qualls said. Tim Morton will remain as chef and Harding and John Masching, who also attended the New York Culinary School, will be in the kitchen as well.
Qualls said the cuisine will be influenced by the international recipes Harding and Masching learned in New York. The restaurant will have a casual component as well as the white-tablecloth dining area, and an enclosed patio with fire pit. There will also be music Friday and Saturday nights, in what might be called "Savoy Club" offerings, and jazz on Sunday nights, Qualls said.
1620 was ready for a makeover, Rush Harding said. "It will be Hollywood glamour all the way," said Qualls, who is an actor at The Rep when he's not directing the restaurant.
Restaurant founder and chef Morton's aunt Evette Brady is going into semi-retirement, Qualls said, doing some catering and cooking classes.