Not long ago, a fixture in the Knoxville music scene closed its doors for good.
The Valarium and next-door bar The Ciderhouse ceased operations in November 2012. The owner cited regulations related to alcohol sales being his primary reason for closing.
Regardless of the reason, a large vacancy was left in Knoxville. The city temporarily did not have a concert venue that was near 1,000 seats outside of the ultra-swank Tennessee Theatre. The space didn’t sit empty for long before Daniel Leal, former owner of 4620 Reinvented and Ooga Mooga Tiki Tavern and current owner of D&L Station in Morristown, moved in. He named the venue Blackstock and laid the groundwork for a renovation and image conversion that would take the better part of three months before doors could open.
Leal is a bit of a renegade in my eyes, primarily due to his Morristown location D&L Station. He told me about this spot when I reviewed Ooga Mooga Tiki Tavern last year. D&L was the only establishment to serve liquor by the drink in Morristown in nearly a decade. The town formerly just had Angelo’s Hillside Grill and Applebees permitted to sell liquor. Others had applied to sell it, but been denied. Somehow Leal got the proper zoning and permits and opened his doors just more than a year ago.
Also at this point I think I should rewind briefly and explain why I said “former” owner of Ooga Mooga Tiki Tavern: Leal told me he had shut it down to focus on his Morristown bar, the new Blackstone and a little boy and wife at home.
I arrived at Blackstock, entering the former Ciderhouse part of the venue, on a Thursday night at the tail end of spring break, so everything in town (including the new Blackstock) was dead as could be. I don’t mind the lack of crowd because that always makes it easier for me to stroll around and check out a facility.
First off, I noticed that the entire room had been opened up with several of the former dividing walls removed to make the stage visible when you get through the main hallway to where you would pay your cover and get your ID checked. Even the rooms to the right that housed the pool tables are no longer closed off. (The bar is in the middle.)
The DJ on stage tested out the frequency tolerance of the sound system by blaring bass-heavy dubstep to a relatively vacant room. I was impressed with how well the system handled it and could easily picture hundreds of multiple-bracelet wearing, glow stick-wielding underclassman gyrating almost in unison with the pulsing laser lights. Perhaps I have been to Bonnaroo too many times?
I stepped outside to check out the patio area between the two venues and saw Daniel there talking on his phone. When he finished he took me inside the old Valarium space where they were working on renovations. He explained to me that he was renting a sound system for his early events with intention of purchasing a state-of-the-art system down the road. Some upcoming events for Blackstock include the band The Breakfast Club, which will bring their ’80s covers on Saturday, April 6. The band Rehab will perform on April 11, and the venue has “Blackstock University” every Thursday night featuring dance music aimed at the University of Tennessee crowd.
I am happy with the changes I see, but I trust that there are a lot more to come as resources become available. More than anything, I think many should be happy that Knoxville didn’t permanently lose these two buildings as live entertainment venues.
Address: 940 Blackstock Ave.
Web Site: www.blackstocklive.com
Hours: Currently Open for Events Only
Smoking Indoors: No
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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