May 10, 2021

‘Big Brother’ star Memphis Garrett adds Fort Lauderdale cocktail parlor to his eats empire

Despite opening over 40 restaurants and bars here in South Florida, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, No Man’s Land will be a first for hospitality honcho Memphis Garrett.

Slated to open by June in Fort Lauderdale, the cocktail parlor and lounge is the only business solely owned by Garrett, probably best known for two dishy appearances on “Big Brother” reality TV show.

“I’ve opened so many venues,” Garrett told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “You know you go through so many styles, so many vibes. This venue is the first I’m going to open and have zero partners. I’ve been able to give it my all, my passion.”

No Man’s Land will be in Victoria Park Shoppes, between the Winn-Dixie Wine & Spirits Liquor Store and Christina Wan’s Mandarin House at 666 Federal Highway.

That is the current home of Poke House, one of Garrett’s other restaurants in his Garrett Hospitality Group. Fans of the fast-casual eatery that specializes in the Hawaiian delicacy of marinated raw tuna need not fear: The Poke House will operate out of the same location as a ghost kitchen.

Ghost kitchens exist solely online for takeout/delivery only. Often the kitchens share the space with another restaurant. In this case, Garrett plans to also launch Blue Wave Sushi ghost kitchen out of the same address.

Of course No Man’s Land will put a lot of focus on the craft cocktail menu, which Garrett says will “make a nod to the classics and our spin on some great new cocktails.”

He adds that there will also be a 10-item menu of small shareable plate dishes such as beef carpaccio, hamachi crudo, hot chicken wings and deviled eggs with caviar.

“We will go after that crowd that wants an elevated experience,” Garrett says.

What to expect inside No Man’s Land

Poke House will be transformed completely.

“We’re putting a hallway when you first enter,” explains Garrett. “There will be a Zoltar machine at the end of the hallway, so you can get your fortune told. The idea of the hallway is to clear your mind. I need to clear your mind from where you are stepping in from outside to where you’re going inside.”

The entrepreneur got help with the interiors from Steve Harivel, the designer who gave SoHo House private clubs their cosmopolitan elan.

Already Poke House’s floor tiles have been replaced with herringbone wood flooring. After taking the hallway (with its gold wallpaper and antique wall sconces) into the main room, expect to see four blue banquettes backed by huge drapes. There will be a long, dark quartzite exotic bartop with tufted leather barstools. Each table will have an ornate chandelier over it.

“It’s super sexy and dark,” Garrett says, adding that the capacity will be 45-50 people. “Even with 10 to 15 people in there, you still have a great experience. It will feel intimate all the time. Service, service, service — to me, it’s everything.”

What’s in the name?

Garrett admits that at first glance putting a chic cocktail parlor with a clubby vibe — “Almost a gypsy kind of feel. This old school feeling and vibe.” — into a cookie cutter strip mall might be an ill fit. Which is why the name No Man’s Land came to him.

“It’s a little out there. It appealed to me, the idea of you got to get away. You got to separate yourself.”

It’s a “weird area with a Winn-Dixie there,” he adds. But he points out that on the other side of U.S. 1, in the booming Flagler Village neighborhood, is a slew of places to party: Sparrow rooftop bar at the Dalmar hotel, Rhythm & Vine Garden and Den, Roxanne’s Liquor Bar & Kitchen, Rec Room Beer Bar, Rose’s Coffee Bar and chef Rino Cerbone’s Heritage restaurant.

“They are all a stone’s throw away,” Garrett says. “They are good venues that are doing well.”

And while the existing Poke House might be a better blend for the strip mall where the No Man’s Land will be, Garrett says that losing the dining room and shifting the Poke House to a ghost kitchen is just good business.

“We weren’t seeing the dine-in customer sitting inside,” he explains. “And this was pre-COVID. We tracked this before COVID; 80% of our business was in delivery/pickup. So, with the kitchen in No Man’s Land, I have the ability to just move it to the back, basically running three venues out of one space.”

Who is Memphis Garrett?

Garrett grew up in Collierville, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis where he organized keg parties as a 15-year-old.

He attended Florida State University, where he got his first taste of the hospitality industry running nightclub security before graduating in 2007.

Then there were stints with the SBE-owned Hyde Hotel brand, opening their Katsuya restaurants and later with real estate developers Jorge M. Pérez and Sam Nazarian in Miami

“I worked my way up, first director of operation, then director of openings,” Garrett recalls. “I was opening three or four venues a year with them. I worked for them until five years ago.”

He first shot to reality TV show fame with an appearance on season 10 of “Big Brother” in 2008 and then “Big Brother: All-Stars” in 2020 (he shares his Fort Lauderdale home with fellow-competitor-turned-romance-partner Christmas Abbott and his son, River Waylon).

The entrepreneur’s empire also included contracts for opening the food and beverage with the Dalmar hotel in Fort Lauderdale and Joia Beach Restaurant & Beach Club in Miami.

He has since gone out on his own with a variety of partnerships and endorsement deals:

  • There was JB&C in Flagler Village. “I got bought out last year. That place became a necessity. There was nothing like that [in Flagler Village]. It’s still so busy and done so well.”

  • Ya Mas! Taverna, a Greek restaurant planned for Fort Lauderdale. “It’s a concept that me and another partner, Emma Batchelder, this South African amazing woman, have plans for. We’re looking at spaces. This is a fun mezze platter kind of place where you dance on tables, break plates, an opa kind of place. That’s what ‘ya mas’ means, ‘cheers,’ in Greek.”

  • Poke House and Blue Wave Sushi as a franchise. “We want to open…out of the same dual brand, like Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins. We’re launching at Grandview Public Market in West Palm Beach…in July. And there’ll be a location in Plantation and…Tampa and Orlando.”

  • Los Magos Sotol, a Mexican distilled spirit. “[It] comes from something very similar to an agave plant. It’s basically broken down and processed like tequila. It’s been around for thousands of years. It’s been in the states for about eight weeks. I think it will have the same rise in popularity that mezcal had about 15 years ago when mezcal hit the States.”

  • Fancy Can, a vodka soda still in pre-production. “Fancy Can…will be in the market by summer of this year. It’s taking that clear spirit of vodka and basically combining it with a house-made soda water.”

  • Scout & Cellar, organic wine. “It has low sulfites and none of those fake sugars in the wine which give you the hangovers.”

  • Manscaped, men’s grooming. “They’re a sponsor of ‘Morning with Memphis’….something I started when in the [”Big Brother”] house. You know, when you’re stuck in that house for as long as we were, basically four months, with no news, no phone, no reading or writing, you start to go a little crazy. Ultimately I’m a big news person, so I started making up my own news. I would get up in the morning and have a coffee and I started making up my news in my own newscast, taking a stab at what may be happening in the world. I would just jibber jabber on for about 10 minutes. They made a whole segment on it on the [’Big Brother’] show. So when I got out…I thought maybe I should keep it going. I do about one a week [on Instagram and YouTube].

If you go info

When No Man’s Land opens, the address will be 666 Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale (in the Victoria Park Shoppes strip mall).

For more information, go to NoMansLandFTL.com or Instagram.com/nomanslandftl.