This week we take another trip to the world of hotel bars. Hotel bars used to be common in the '70s and '80s; of course, this was also back when you could still smoke on airplanes. Times have changed. Less people travel for business and more people travel with children, therefore, the demand for bars inside hotels has diminished.
Any time I step into a hotel bar I can't help but think of the scene from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" where Hunter S. Thompson and his attorney enter the hotel lounge under the influence and quickly find themselves threatened by the unusual patterns on the carpet and ever-present mirrors covering each wall.
I arrived at West Knoxville's Hotel Magnuson, formerly a Howard Johnson, on Saturday night directly following the UT Vols' victory over Akron. The hotel is right on Kingston Pike, directly across from West Town Mall. I tried valiantly to find the entrance, first approaching from the west looking for a left turn into the parking lot, but no luck. I got down to the light and did a U-turn expecting there to be an entrance right there, but once again, no luck.
Finally I took a pair of right turns and found myself on a service road with an entrance to the highway. There was the entrance, or at least the first one I could find. Pretty insane that it wouldn't be easier to get into this place, but something told me those who came here already knew the way. The hotel parking lot was quite full, so I made my way around to the west side of the lot and found a space.
As I walked up to the front of the hotel, it seemed more like a busy nightclub. Folks were standing outside smoking, but politely not clogging up the walkway. I entered the hotel where two stairways went off to the right and left and under them was the entrance to Babe's Lounge. I walked in the front door and a large gentleman was standing with his back to the wall next to the door looking over a pretty full room. Upon making eye contact he asked for my ID and I told him about my mission as he examined it. He pointed me to bar manager Matt Long. The bar was positioned near the center of the room but slightly closer to the entrance. It was in some type of octagonal shape as many of the hotel bars I have seen seem to be. Behind the bar was Matt, helping take orders and overseeing the chaos that was a busy Saturday night at Babe's. I chatted with him briefly and found out that Babe's Lounge had been around since 1986.
Beyond the bar was a large dance floor complete with a stage in one corner and gigantic TV screens behind it. On the TV screens was a music video collage of the song "Old Time Rock 'N Roll" complete with the scene from "Risky Business" where Tom Cruise dances around in his underwear. Folks roughly 40 and up were on the dance floor soothing their souls while others were mingling and talking, filling just about every nook and cranny the bar had to offer.
Smiles were plentiful as people lined up around the bar to get another drink. Moving about was challenging, but folks were quick to excuse themselves from your path. This is always one thing I love about going to a bar after the Vols win, people are way nicer. But maybe, that was just the demeanor of the folks at Babe's all the time. I have a sneaking suspicion that this indeed is the case.
If you are sick of the teeny-bopper crowd and want a fun, safe place to go out with a few of your friends for dancing, check out Babe's Lounge on a Saturday Night. I think it will leave you all smiles.---Babe's Lounge
Address: 7621 Kingston Pike (inside the Magnusun Hotel) On the web: www.facebook.com/BabesLounge
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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