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Restaurants Attracting More Square Business with Rebrands

By Emily DeWitt
Hottytoddy.com intern

Oxford’s historical Square is an economic stalwart in the state, rarely welcoming new businesses or restaurants because of its tried-and-true establishments. However, a recent change in the food and drink scene is causing much chatter.

Most recently, the Wine Bar turned into SoLa – a funky mashup of Asian and American dishes with a varied bar that complements its flavor. On the other side of the courthouse, creative changes are also taking place, much to the confusion of students.

The biggest change impacting the Square lately is the rebranding of the Levee to Tango’s Patio & Kitchen. The Levee was a staple on the Square as one of the only 18-plus bars. There were mixed emotions circling campus regarding this specific rebranding, but the manager hopes Tango’s Patio & Kitchen matches the nostalgia of the Levee with a new atmosphere.

The Levee recently went through a rebrand to Tango’s Pation & Kitchen, to try and keep up with the growth and direction of the Oxford Square. Photo provided.

Griffin Tanner, owner of Tango’s Patio and Kitchen, as well as a few other 21-plus bars on the Square, wanted to give Tango’s its own vibe and expand to more than just the nightlife clientele. He partnered with Clint Boutwell, owner of Oxford Grillehouse and Julep Steakhouse on the venture.

“The Levee was a fantastic bar, but we just wanted to focus more on food here and create more of a different experience,” Tanner said.

Rebranding is a recent trend impacting business on the Square, and Tanner credits it to low enrollment at Ole Miss.

“Last year was the worst year that my businesses have ever had, and I attribute that mostly to enrollment…losing football games,” Tanner said.

Tanner sees a growing market for a new type of food place, referencing St. Leo’s and The Sipp on South Lamar.

He voiced his hesitation in rebranding the Levee because of its loyal following. However, with the limited amount of people who come through per night, he saw a need to invest more money into a new establishment catering to a similar crowd that other bars on the Square do. He did it because of his investment in the community, from good to bad and in between, he said.

“I can’t wait to see what Lane Kiffin does for our athletic program. I have seen real estate and restaurant business start to turn back up and I hope that will continue to increase tourism,” Tanner said.

Tango’s dance floor lights up the bar. Photo provided.

He wants Tango’s to be more than a beer and wing bar. From 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., he wants customers to enjoy their new food concoctions, including milkshakes with alcohol. From 10 p.m. until close, he wants to keep the Levee vibe.

Building on the Experience

Tango’s isn’t the only establishment rebranding on the Square. Venice Kitchen and SoLa are among the few other places that have decided it was time to update. Chef Erika Lipe from SoLa said the name “The Wine Bar” hindered their growth as a restaurant because it was branded as a wine bar and not a restaurant.

“We took a leap of faith into rebranding as a restaurant, careful to share with our fans and followers that we would still be the same people and food that they had grown to love, but at the same time inviting new customers to come see what we are about. It has been a remarkably rewarding experience,” she said.

Susan Brennan, general manager at Venice Kitchen, felt it was just time for Venice Kitchen to rebrand themselves to include more than just pizza. She agreed with Tanner that foot traffic on the Square has decreased, but said she isn’t sure what to attribute to the cause.

“I don’t think it is as much as it has been in years past,” said Brennan, “I think even football season this year was slower. I have been in this town 27 years, and I think it was one of the slowest ones I have seen. I don’t think it’s necessarily just the Square either. I think it’s overall.”

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