In doing my articles on a weekly basis I get all around town, and sometimes even leave the county to do my piece. One place I travel seldom is South Knoxville. Now, I don't have any overt prejudice against that area, it just doesn't contain many bars. Now, more than ever, businesses in South Knoxville are struggling to make ends meet. With the down economy and the closure of the Henley Street Bridge, the major artery into that section of town, things couldn't get much worse.
South Knoxville does have some of the nicer parks closer to downtown — including Ijams, which draws me there quite often. On one occasion when I was making my way up Chapman Highway I saw a bar that caught my eye. Its name was The House and it had a small sign out front that said "Craft Beers." It piqued my interest because this part of Knoxville did not seem to be the craft beer kinda place to me.
I arrived on a Friday night and upon entering noticed a guitar set up to my left with some PA equipment. Directly in front of me toward the back right of the room was the bar.
At the bar was a young lady I came to learn was named Amy Oakey. Amy was excited I was doing an article about the bar. She had a sentimental attachment to the place ever since her parents, Donnie and Harriette Hill, owned the spot years before. The bar has been through quite a few names over the years, a few of which included The Double D and further back, The Cantina. I chatted briefly with Amy about the history of the bar, but then she had to be off. She paid her tab and bid me goodbye. After talking with Amy and speaking with a few other bar patrons I learned that the bar had been dormant for the better part of a year when the new owner took over.
I ordered a drink from the friendly bartender Cathy and she let the owner know I was there and why. After a few minutes she came out and we talked. Now, I can't give you her real name, but I can tell you that her code name is "Splinter" so if you want to speak to the HLIC (Head Lady in Charge), go in and ask for Splinter. Not Master Splinter, like the Ninja Turtles sensei, but like a wood splinter.
She told me that the Colonial Village neighborhood was primarily where she saw her customers come from. A quick Google search on the neighborhood revealed an interesting past, including a farmer that owned all the land being upset when a roadway (Champan Highway) was built through his 200 acres of farmland (that later became part of Colonial Village). Strangely, the old man was struck by a car trying to cross the road to get to the other part of his land and later died.
The House Tavern opened its doors on April 17 of this year. Since opening, "Splinter" told me that business continued to grow and grow. She also told me that her distributor told her that "craft" beer would not sell well in South Knoxville. She so far has proven him wrong. In case you are not familiar with the term "craft" beer, it refers to beer that is brewed in smaller batches. It is typically slightly higher in calories and alcohol content. With the amount of young people who have begun moving close to downtown and relocated to South Knoxville in the recent past, this choice was a smart one. Variety is what keeps the 20- and 30-somethings interested.
On this evening Opie Taylor from the Red Hot and Blues Band was playing the tunes for the evening. He greeted me with a firm handshake when I approached him about doing some video. He was quick to oblige with an original tune. I always love it when the local musicians choose to do the original stuff; I think covers are glorified karaoke, but hey, it pays the bills, right?
I was also told by a table that I needed to try the burger. While I did not get around to it, I heard it from two other people so it must be something worth munching on and washing down with a cold Fat Tire. I also remembered "Splinter" telling me that they received a 99 on their health score.
All in all it, was a great experience at The House Tavern. The air was not too smoky, which was courtesy of a few smoke eaters and good ventilation, and the people were beyond neighborhood ambassadors.
Go check out The House Tavern in the South Knoxville Colonial Village neighborhood. Remember ask for special agent "Splinter." Tell her Hawkeye sent you. She will likely look at you with a blank stare because we totally didn't discuss my secret agent code name. I'm emailing her now so she might know if you tell her that. If she checks her email.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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