Despite legal wrangling with neighbors over zoning approval from the City of Jackson, the restaurant at The Fairview Inn in historic Belhaven is now open for dinner and Sunday brunch.
“We are definitely ready for business,” said Bill Simmons, who owns The Fairview Inn along with his wife, Carol Simmons.
In April, neighbors filed an appeal to the City of Jackson’s 5-0 decision on April 7 to allow the Simmons to open to the public Fairview Inn’s restaurant for dinner. The “bill of exceptions” filed by the neighbors threatened to disrupt plans until 2006. But the city has a motion to dismiss the appeal, saying that it was filed beyond the 10 days permitted by statute to appeal. The issue will go before Circuit Court Judge Bobby DeLaughter on December 3.
“The Fairview Inn has a motion to intervene and to participate alongside the City of Jackson on the appeal,” said Jackson attorney Robert Wise. “The existence of the appeal has had no effect on the operations of the Fairview Inn’s restaurant. They’re completely free, at this point, and I expect it to continue, to be able to operate the restaurant for dinner and Sunday brunches. Some legal issues just need to be resolved.”
The Fairview Inn serves dinner Thursday through Saturday, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., offering a menu ranging from Angus burger to Oysters Rockefeller followed by desserts like pecan pie with caramel sauce and fresh cream. No reservations are required. Sunday brunch, served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., features traditional Southern foods and Fairview Eggs Benedict. Guest parking is located off the street next door at the 1600 Building.
“The restaurant is slow right now, but we haven’t yet started our advertising campaign,” said Carol Simmons. “We had private parties to finish up and we’ve done some construction in the Garden Room so that we could have more private dining rooms and hold two functions at the same time, which we did earlier this month.”
A favorite venue
Since the Simmons opened the restaurant, they are no longer hosting wedding receptions. However, The Fairview Inn remains a favorite venue for rehearsal dinners, legislative receptions and private parties.
With private dining rooms that seat six, 10, 25 and 80, the demand has increased for business meetings and dinners, especially because there is no charge for renting those rooms. The only cost is for food and beverage, depending on menu selections.
“Our private dining rooms are very private and that’s very appealing to businesses,” said Simmons. “They can put up guests here for the night and meet them for dinner.”
Ironically, the Simmons never planned to open The Fairview Inn, now an historic landmark and considered one of the world’s most acclaimed award-winning inns. In 1992, the couple tried to sell the family home, a 1908 Colonial Revival mansion.
“It was financially difficult to maintain Fairview as a home only,” said Simmons. “We had several offers to buy Fairview to operate businesses but were unable to obtain the zoning necessary to allow any of the sales to go through.
“I didn’t know what we were going to do. The failure of those sales to materialize led to the decision to open Fairview as a bed and breakfast.”
The Fairview Inn opened in July 1993 with five guestrooms. Today, the property features 18 luxury guest rooms and a full-time catering service and staff. It was the featured cover story and “Inn of the Month” in Country Living’s October 1994 issue, and was selected one of Country Living’s Top Inns that same year. The National Trust for Historic Preservation selected it for inclusion in the 1998 wall calendar featuring historic bed and breakfasts, inns, and small hotels. In 2000, American Historic Inns named it one of the Top 10 Most Romantic Inns. Southern Living magazine featured Fairview in 2001.
So many facets
“There are so many facets of this business,” said Simmons. “One minute I may be cleaning bathrooms, and the next entertaining the King and Queen of Spain.”
Former Mississippi First Lady Pat Fordice always counted on the Simmons to impress foreign dignitaries with comfortable accommodations and genuine southern hospitality.
“We had a number of guests from other countries during the international exhibitions … and when King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia visited Jackson for The Majesty of Spain exhibition, Carol provided rooms for them and for their entire traveling party,” she said. “They were only here for the day, but this allowed them to rest and to change clothes for the evening festivities. Their majesties were very impressed and told everyone so.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org.