When Cathead’s Diner opened in spring 2018 it served as the cornerstone of the East Village business district. It was a look into the future of the area that mixed a historically industrial area with a modern, urban feel. Now it appears Cathead’s is officially closed. The one silver lining is that our sources tell us the building will not be vacant for long, with a new concept coming that should be familiar to most of Central Arkansas.
For a bit of context, in early July Cathead’s closed due to rising COVID numbers around central Arkansas. As far as we have been able to determine, there were no cases in the restaurant, rather it was proactive to keep the staff safe. They had remained takeout only throughout the crisis, and judging by conversations we had with other restaurants, they likely were not making enough to justify putting the wellbeing of staff at risk.
Not long after we noticed a switch on the restaurant’s Facebook page saying that it is permanently closed. Curious we gave the restaurant a buzz and asked to speak with chef and co-owner Donnie Ferneau. We were told Donnie is no longer with the restaurant and Donnie was unavailable for comment.
So we started doing some poking around with people in the area and interested parties and were able to confirm that yes, Cathead’s as a concept was closing.
Update – Beasley Properties did update us that they are not (or no longer) pursuing an acquisition of Cathead’s. Original remarks left for context.
Then we heard an interesting rumor from a credible source. The investors at Cathead’s are looking to merge with Beasley Properties. Beasley not only owns Bone’s Chophouse but has also been in a large acquisition phase during COVID. If you remember from earlier this year they bought up several Hot Springs locations including J&S Italian Villa, The Copper Penny Irish Pub, and McClard’s BBQ all in Hot Springs.
It is the acquisition of McClard’s that should be of particular interest here. The plan appears to be convert to Cathead’s into a second location of McClard’s which will be the first part of a larger strategy to expand long-serving Hot Springs brand into a number of additional locations.
McClard’s is easily one of the most well-known BBQ brands in the state. Not only is their Hot Springs location well known throughout the area, but their packaged bbq sauce sold throughout grocery stores in the state likely gives them a little additional brand recognition. It should be a good move on their end to leverage the brand recognition to expand, especially when we are eventually able to come out of COVID and there could very well be a restaurant void.
We tried to reach out to our contact at Beasley Properties for confirmation but were not able to get in touch. We will continue tracking this story and let you know what we find.