Gay Street was once the premiere destination in the Knoxville area for nightlife. Many folks may think that is exactly what it is today, but years and years ago, downtown Knoxville was the place to be in East Tennessee for entertainment, dining and socializing.
According to local historical preservation guru Daniel Schuh, in Knoxville's heyday there were many more theaters, movie houses, restaurants and bars/pubs than exist today.
The revitalization efforts taking place in downtowns across the country are also happening in Knoxville. Downtown Knoxville has seen a surge of new shopping, dining and nightlife options in the last few years with 2012 seeming to be a big year for new businesses opening up in the 37902 zip code.
A few months ago in my article I mentioned a few new places that were opening on Gay Street. One of those spots was simply named Sky. I couldn't help but to be drawn to attaching the word 'bar' or 'nightclub' or something, but Sky seems to be the way it is being branded.
I recently hit the State Street parking garage and headed uphill to Gay Street to check out Sky. The bar is across the street from Downtown Grill and Brewery, and on the same side of the street a few doors down is Morelock Music and Downtown Wine and Spirits.
As I walked up to the bar I felt my jeans and flip-flops idea might not jive with the venues dress code. I presented my ID to a fellow in a suit who was working the door. He was forgiving of my constant summer lazy wear, and I headed inside to check out the bar.
I was immediately struck by the wide-open hallway that is the upstairs bar. Booths and urbane line the walls, but no clutter of needless seating clogs up the middle of the room. High up on the back wall is a DJ booth, where a mix master was spinning all the hits of the '80s.
I got a beer, asking the bartender about the basement bar. He let me know it would be open soon, so I had a seat and took in all I could of the bedazzled decade of music.
It was obvious to me from everything I was seeing that Sky is trying to reach the folks my age (I'm 37) and slightly older, not the young bar-hopping crowd. The decor and the environment they have created seems more like an establishment where people go to have drinks after some big business deal was landed or when someone was graduating from law school — and on this evening there indeed was a graduation party.
When the basement opened I headed down there with my friend Collin to check it out. The downstairs had a different DJ spinning much more modern danceclub-type music. There is a lot more wood downstairs in the design, including barrel tables. A few couches and taller tables are around the room as well, once again not cluttering up the paths of traffic, but providing a place for people to sit to talk.
In rolled a guy in a fedora and vest and another group of folks who seemed to me were dressed like retail wireless salespeople. After a few minutes I realized that is exactly what they were as I recognized a woman I used to work with at Verizon Wireless, and she had no clue who I was due to my long hair and beard I didn't have back then. (In case you want to know how people at Verizon dress: It's with black pants, a colored — not white — shirt and a crazy tie that serves as the one the tiny place where they are allowed to express themselves.)
Back to Sky. The bar was well put together. I can see this place doing very well with the grad-school-to-alumni-Vol-fans crowd, those who are looking for a classy space where they can stop and have a cocktail without being harassed by younger folks in the throes of partydom.
Sky is a good alternative to other downtown establishments.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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