Hearing that Preservation Pub opened up a second floor is like hearing Heaven remodeled, or that the deceased members of the Beatles were resurrected and reunited with their former band mates for a recording session yielding an equally-as-perfect follow up to "Abbey Road."
So maybe that's an exaggeration, but needless to say I was thrilled to hear of a second-level "speakeasy" at the Pub.
The pub's popularity has soared over the years. It's a popular meeting place. Everyone ends up there occasionally. With few exceptions, no one seems to object to it.
But in my case, I grew up with the Pub. It was the first bar in town I visited after turning 21. It's the first place I became a regular. Its staff is the first staff I got to know. It's the first place I accidentally rang up a $50-plus tab. It's the only bar I'll go to alone.
It holds a special place in my heart.
When my life-long friend Mike came into town on an arbitrary Thursday night, it was a no-brainer to take him to the Pub. He's barely spent any time in Knoxville, so right away I wanted to make sure he saw the best of what our bar scene has to offer.
On top of that, I wanted to introduce him to the people at the Pub. It's had such an impact on my life, it's as if I want the Pub to meet my family.
In heading to the Pub we noticed how dead other places were. Between school not being in session and the weather being dreary and threatening, crowds were light.
But the Pub didn't disappoint. As expected, there was more than one live band on the bill and most of the downstairs tables were already occupied.
Immediately upon walking in there's a lengthy stairway ascending to the Pub's new level, but we decided to make the rounds before checking out the new territory. Every time I set foot in the Pub the first thing I do is see if my favorite local bartender, Jill, is working (which she was). We grabbed a few Fat Tires and started looking for somewhere to sit.
As we were glancing around, dodging beer-toting patrons, a friend of mine from college (whom I haven't seen in three years) spotted us and invited us to his table. Whereas it's pretty common to run into old friends anywhere in town, I feel there's always higher odds at the Pub.
We sat down and got comfortable, right as the band appropriately started playing the "home, home again," refrain from Pink Floyd's "Time." Looking around, I noticed that the downstairs (fortunately) hadn't changed a bit. The dark red color scheme remains, as do the hardwood floors and wooden tables. The stage still towers over a tiny "dance floor" adjacent to it and the lengthy bar. Most importantly, the Pub's fascinating black and white signs with quotes regarding alcohol from prominent figures still hang from the ceiling.
After soaking in the familiar setting and explaining my fondness for the place to Mike (which required yelling over the loud music - commonplace at the Pub) we decided to grab a drink and venture upstairs.
The Pub's second floor speakeasy is simultaneously a surprise and exactly what you'd expect it to be.
The venue's famous philosophical signs show the place is pensive but knows how to have a good time, so I assumed that in adding an upstairs area they'd be branching out significantly or otherwise trying to one-up themselves.
Instead, the area mirrors the downstairs floor, but on a smaller scale. Wooden tables line the left side of the wall while a smaller, rounder bar occupies the back right corner. Instead of the bright red color scheme, the upstairs is a somber blue, complementing the downstairs color scheme. Large black and white drapes with the same famous people as the downstairs signs hang from the ceiling against the right wall.
What's a pleasant surprise about the speakeasy is its elevated seating area pressed up against the front windows, overlooking Market Square. Plush couches provide the most comfortable seating arrangements in the venue. And there are additional bathrooms in the back, somewhat alleviating the place's notoriously awful bathroom situation.
The upstairs is swanky, comfortable, and quiet. There were only six total people (us and the bartender included) so maybe it hasn't yet caught on (after all, it's brand new).
But I know I'll be checking up on it over the next few weeks.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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