The structure at 401 Broadway was originally constructed in 1870 and housed a different business on each floor. On the first floor was a pharmacy and a wholesale drug manufacturer was on the second floor. On the third floor, you can still see an ad for “blood medicine” that was once painted on what was then the outside of the building. In 1892, when Nashville was booming and the Cumberland River was a thriving trade route, the building underwent additional construction and was completed to create the building you see today. The second floor was a hotel, as evidenced by all the fireplaces. Each room was very small and guests may have even share their tiny room, but on the European plan of 25 cents a day, no one was expecting luxury.
In the 1920s the Ryman Auditorium started hosting The Grand Ole Opry, which meant many musical legends stayed at Merchants Hotel, including Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Porter Waggoner, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Roy Acuff just to name a few.
During prohibition the Merchants building became a speakeasy, a place for folks to get their hands on outlawed spirits. Rumor has it Al Capone even frequented the space, which also served as a brothel, a casino, a saloon, a pool hall, and probably a home other various illustrious pastimes as well. In the 1970s it became a honky tonk and the state of the building continued to deteriorate. In the 1980s the building was scheduled for demolition until was purchased in 1988; Merchants restaurant opened. For many years it became a reputable dinner location and was one of the only reasons locals would ever venture in the seedy downtown Nashville streets.
After some unfortunate business dealings, the Merchants building was sold. The restaurant slowly deteriorated once more until, on the cusp of closing, it was purchased by local brothers and restauranteurs Benjamin and Max Goldberg.