Diner backed by owners of City & State coffee shop headed to Broad Avenue

The iconic liquor store building on Broad Avenue is getting a new look and a new use as a restaurant thanks to entrepreneurs Lisa and Luis Toro, owners of City & State coffee shop and fair trade retail outlet.

The Toros' shop opened a couple of blocks to the west of the liquor store two years ago. The couple have just begun renovation work on the property, and they hope to have the new restaurant open by early August.

Aptly named The Liquor Store, the restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. It will fittingly feature a full bar.

“The idea being a fresh and fun play on traditional diner foods, so nothing to foreign or too crazy, just delicious stuff,” Lisa Toro said.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun with the beverage program. We want to be really playful, and even the restaurant space itself will be very bright and clean with pops of color. We just want it to feel good when you walk in.”

The building’s previous tenant used the 1,400-square-foot space for office purposes, and when the building became available the Toros jumped at the opportunity.

“We were just determined because this is such a great building. So many people know it who come along Broad,” said Toro, who sees the property as a connector between Wiseacre Brewing Company to the east and Broad Avenue’s retail and other commercial development to the west.

She points out that the only food options currently on Broad are City & State for breakfast, Broadway Pizza for lunch and Maximo’s, The Cove, and Bounty for dinner.

The Toros and Natalie Lieberman designed the interior. The trio runs their own consulting firm, Bending Neon, and are responsible for designing City & State, the Bikesmith and other businesses around town.

“So we’re excited to bring this space to life and create a brand around the Liquor Store,” said Toro, who previously worked as the senior director of digital brand marketing for Hilton Worldwide. Her husband also works for Hilton.

Plans call for utilizing the building’s unique liquor store neon signage that remains from when it was an actual liquor store nearly a decade ago.

“We’re keeping all of the existing signage and helping to refurbish and restore some of it,” said Toro. 

Interior improvements will include replacing the HVAC system, installing a venta-hood, adding bathrooms, and extensive electrical work, wiring, and painting. JLC Enterprises is the general contractor.

The Toros also just received approval to use two railway shipping containers, one 40-feet long and one 20-feet long, to extend the length of the building in the back and to help form a festive outdoor dining area.

“The containers are going to house our prep kitchen, our walk-in, and some storage as well as help us create a courtyard on this massive lot,” said Toro, who estimates the overall cost of renovations and opening costs at close to $400,000.

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Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.