Local bartenders Paul Gilliam and Mary Oglesby, who created and opened the Cameo cocktail bar in Midtown, are working on opening another themed bar. As seasoned bar owners, the team’s newest bar concoction will immerse guests in a tropical oasis.
“This is something we talked about before Cameo even opened. We wanted to open a tropical bar. Mary worked at a fantastic tropical bar in Milwaukee, and her time there was the inspiration behind this idea,” said Gilliam.
The bar’s theme will be a fully fleshed-out extension of Cameo’s very own weekly Tropical Tuesdays when the sultry bar and lounge are converted into a nightly island hangout.
Named Mary’s B.O.T.E. after its co-owner, Mary Oglesby, its acronym stands for Bar of Tropical Escapism and will be located at 588 S. Cooper St., Ste. 102. Grass skirts, string lights, and tropical-inspired glassware and decorations will be taken a step further in this brand-new—yet smaller—space to bring the tropical concept to its fullest immersive experience.
Tropical Tuesday cocktail favorites like the painkiller and the zombie will be carried over to the new bar, along with new drink creations and food additions like personal pan pizzas.
“With limitations comes creativity. It really narrows down what we’re doing. There is no other tropical-style bar in Memphis, so this will be a one-of-a-kind bar,” said Oglesby.
Paul Gilliam is spearheading the design of the interiors of the bar. The space will seat about 40 guests and includes a long bar, multiple booths, and a partially enclosed back patio with additional seating. The goal is to bring the bar to life with vibrant color schemes and funky furniture without reducing it to the ‘basic’ aesthetics of a tiki bar or using Polynesian cultural iconography as a “gimmick.”
“We are not exclusively a tiki bar; we are a tropical bar. We want it to look like any place in the world with a tropical environment. We don’t think it appropriate to use someone else’s culture or religion as decorations; we are not Polynesian, so we don’t think it appropriate for us to do,” said Oglesby.
However, the drinks won’t shy away from tropical adornments like fruit slices, tiny paper umbrellas, and bamboo leaves.
The goal remains the same for the duo: flipping the script to a bartender and drinks-centered business.
Mary’s B.O.T.E. is expected to open before the end of 2023.