Same name, new look: Babalu reopening doors under new ownership

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Babalu is back, but under new ownership. While the name will remain the same, the operation will be different.

Maple Hall acquired the local hot-spot after Spell Restaurant Group announced a few months ago that they were closing two locations including the one in Knoxville.

Maple Hall saw the potential in the restaurant and wanted to “re-vamp” it.

“What would make you linger here?” that was the question Maple Halle general manager Ryan Sheley says they asked themselves when they acquired Babalu. With that in mind, they went to work; drumming up plans give the local-favorite a new and exciting look.

The team painted a picture of what the space will look like.

For starters, “soft blue tones and leather exteriors” says Amanda Fox, Maple Hall outreach coordinator, and event planner.

Maple Hall general manager Ryan Sheley laid out what the Babalu space that locals know and love will look like come late summer. As soon as you walk in, looking straight back at the building, there will be a door connecting Babalu to Maple Hall that leads to their upstairs bar.

The bar in the center of the restaurant in Babalu will also look different, along with the color schemes, vibe and menu.

“Fresh” is the key word when it comes to the food and drinks Babalu will feature. The Latin-inspired menu will feature new items along with fan favorites like the table-side guacamole.

“We’re going to have a fresh menu, locally sourced food and cocktails,” says Fox, “We want to use as much of the community here in Knoxville. We will have the staples of Babalu, like the guacamole and the margaritas, but we’re going to keep it fresh, not pre-mixed.”

Babalu will also feature a wall adorned with exotic plants and a neon sign; a prime spot for a “photo opp” for social media.

“That’s something we really wanted so that when you saw a couple on a date night take a picture in front of it you knew exactly where they were at,” Sheley said.

Maple Hall’s goal is to turn Babalu into a place that people will want to stay at and have a good time; creating a space that people can reconnect.

“We want people to come in and have a safe place to gather, a safe place to have dinner. It’s going to be a great place to reconvene and start the rebuilding of Knoxville,” Fox said.

As of now, their plan is to reopen Babalu in late summer.

Maple Hall is currently temporarily closed out of an abundance of precaution as COVID-19 cases continue to spike. Fox says they hope to reopen Maple Hall in August but are making decisions based on the recommendations that come down from the health department, with the priority to do what is best to keep employees and community members safe.


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