Hope Harrington Oakes

Staff Writer

hopeharringtonoakes@gmail.com

Mugshots, the newest dining venture in Columbus, will soon be open for business.  Located just off Highway 45 next door to Dollar General and Umi, the restaurant will offer the same menu as in the other 13 locations,. Owners Jim Hicks and Tray Gamble have been preparing for the new restaurant for months.  Hicks stated, “There will be approximately 100 seats, including the bar.  We will have a full-service bar that will offer 20 different beers on tap. Employee orientation will take place on February 23rd, and the soft opening will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday, February 24th, 25th and 26th.  All the profits will be donated to Palmer Home for that weekend and it will give us a chance to work out the kinks.  People are so understanding, knowing that it’s going to a good cause for charity and it allows us to withstand that first weekend.  We’ll do a ribbon cutting on Tuesday morning with the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce.  We’ll have our Grand Opening then.”

Of course there is a lot to do until then.  The equipment has come in, and they are now in the process of hanging tvs, decorating and next week, will see about ordering food and start getting prepped up.  The tables and bar were hand cut and made by Howard Bond, an artisan out of Hattiesburg.  He originally built the bar in the very first Mugshots in Hattiesburg.

“My partner, Tray Gamble, and I own the franchises in Meridian and Starkville. This is our third location, but this is the first one where we have a new building and were able to design it the way we want it and get it to look the way we wanted.  Normally, we’ve come in and been on a super-low budget trying to get in as cheap as possible and get something open and start serving some good food.”

One perk of their new location is the abundance of parking.  Other locations are situated in areas in which parking is limited, which can be a bit of a problem for a restaurant.  Hicks said, “We were tempted to come downtown in Columbus, and I love the atmosphere of downtown; our Starkville building has great character, but you have parking limitations and you’re dealing with older buildings in town.  That’s old wiring, old plumbing; a lot of those buildings weren’t made to be restaurants, so we were trying to get away from that.  I wanted to be at this location because of how busy 18th Avenue and Highway 45 are.  I think we will have great visibility here.” 

Hicks continued, “The key is that when all these people come out and we can facilitate and serve a good product in a timely manner.  We actually open with trainers from other locations in every position.  They’ll run the restaurant for two weeks while the people we hired here in Columbus will be learning during that process.”   Hicks said that they will hire up to 70 employees, but understands that with turnover and such, that number will go down, eventually.  Their goal is to keep about 45.  They are looking for hosts, hostesses, bartenders, servers and cooks.  “We teach all positions in the kitchen; everyone needs to be universal.  We’ve got the trainers here to teach people the right way.”

“We consider ourselves to be a hamburger restaurant, but we also have pastas, salads and a wide range of appetizers and sides.  Mugshots will also offer their signature milkshakes, which are hand-made.  “Our most popular burger is the McDonald.  It’s a barbeque-bacon-cheddar burger with homemade ranch.  That’s a combination that doesn’t sound like it goes together, but there’s something about it…it all works.  I’m a big fan of our sandwiches.  Our club sandwich is great and our chicken sandwich is served on a sweet Hawaiian sourdough that goes really well with chicken, it’s my favorite.  I always recommend that to people who want something different than burgers.  All the burgers are half-pound burgers, but we do have a quarter-pound burger that we call our ‘kids burger’.  You can order any burger on our menu as a quarter-pound kids burger.  We are in the process of editing our menu right now, and it will be listed on every burger that it will also be available as a quarter-pound burger.  We can customize anything you want.”

Now that the opening is coming soon, Hicks is happy that Columbus customers are eager to try them out.  “We are looking forward to opening up here in Columbus.  We are looking at a strong opening, thanks to word-of-mouth.  People have expectations and are excited about it.  We are looking forward to taking care of them.”  For more information about Mugshots visit their website at http://www.mugshotsgrillandbar.com.