Restaurant News

Hay Merchant Will Close, Georgia James Will Relocate

The Cease and Desist will still exist.
The Cease and Desist will still exist. Photo by Julie Soefer
Chris Shepherd is always throwing big news at our city and today's announcement is no different. In a press release it was reported that the James Beard Award-winning chef is moving his restaurant group Underbelly Hospitality from the 1100 Westheimer location where it has been located for the past ten years. Two of Shepherd's restaurants are at that location. Hay Merchant, the group's more casual restaurant and craft beer bar opened in February 2012. Georgia James, Shepherd's upscale steakhouse, opened October 2018.

The press release stated that Hay Merchant will close at the end of 2021 and its future is still up in the air. However, Shepherd will be opening a new concept, Underbelly Burger, at Houston Farmer's Market later this year. Hay Merchant's popular Cease and Desist Burger will be on the menu at the new burger joint.
click to enlarge Hay Merchant bids adieu at the end of the year. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
Hay Merchant bids adieu at the end of the year.
Photo by Julie Soefer
For Georgia James fans, the news is truly big. In March, it was announced that Shepherd would be opening a live-fire restaurant at Regent Square, a mixed-use development along the Allen Parkway corridor located at W. Dallas and Dunlavy. The new concept has been scrapped and Georgia James Steakhouse will open instead at Regent Square in the first quarter of 2022. On the second floor will be The Lounge at Georgia James, with an indoor/outdoor space for drinks and bar snacks.
click to enlarge Georgia James will bring its cast iron-seared steaks to Regent Square. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
Georgia James will bring its cast iron-seared steaks to Regent Square.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Underbelly Hospitality has also signed a lease for a second space at Regent Square that will possibly be a spin-off of one of Underbelly's One Fifth concepts. One Fifth, by the way, will stay open at its current location, 1658 Westheimer, through the end of the year. The group recently opened Georgia James Tavern at Market Square Tower in late July, as we reported here in the Houston Press. Whew!
click to enlarge Chris Shepherd is a man with a plan. Actually, lots of plans. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
Chris Shepherd is a man with a plan. Actually, lots of plans.
Photo by Julie Soefer
While the move from 1100 Westheimer is bittersweet for Shepherd, many factors went into the decision. He said, "Our lease is up and the cost to renovate the building into what we need doesn't make economic sense. Plus, the City of Houston is starting street improvements of Waugh and Waughcrest, which will definitely impact business. We were provided the opportunity to build Georgia James nearly from the ground up by the folks at Regent Square." Shepherd said that the opportunity was too great to pass up.

The new space at Regent Square will also offer more space for the steakhouse, named for Shepherd's parents, Georgia and James. There will be 220 seats downstairs, 120 upstairs and 50 on the terrace, much more than the restaurant's current location.
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.