Blackstock rises from ashes of Valarium

Rehab will perform at Blackstock on Thursday, April 11.

Rehab will perform at Blackstock on Thursday, April 11.


Downtown - Knoxville


940 Blackstock Ave.

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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:

Hours: Currently Open for Events Only

Smoking Indoors: No

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Comments » 1

AdamHeimerman writes:

The owners of Blackstock, formerly “The Valarium”, are handsdown the worst managers of any bar/club in the Knoxville area. When approached in a polite manner about being shortchanged, they kicked me out. I did not argue or be aggressive, but politely spoke to the employee who asked me to leave. Then, a ‘manager’ came out and told me I could review the tapes on Monday (this being Saturday) to see if I was correct in my claim.

He would not give me a card, or allow me to take his number, and barely got his name. Matthew (if I heard correctly, under his breath as he walked away). He then told me he would not argue about the matter (as if I was beingargumentative to start with) when all I did was simply point out that I hadpaid with a ten and not a five-dollar bill. Two more employees then came to the door and demanded I left the property. This is all over a simple dispute of change. Mathematically, a 3-dollar beer, plus 1-dollar tip, taken out of a ten-dollar payment, should not equal, one dollar. However, that was what I was given. When I addressed the issue with the bartender, he requested security, who promptly took me to the front door and told me, I had to leave.

This is the first night I have spent in the new business, and after such a poor experience, it will be the last. With the new owners having such a negative attitude on customer service, especially towards one who is not being problematic, nor confrontational, and merely acknowledging the lack of correct change; it leads me to believe that these owners do not care about their customers, but only theirprofits.

Anyone who knows even a fraction of who I am knows I would not cause problems in a service-based industry, since I used to work in one myself. These owners clearly have a disregard to anyone who wants to point out the theft of their employees and have no regards towards the claims they make. Even after several phone calls, they have not answered to discuss the matter. This is hands down, the worst business I have EVER encountered in all of Knoxville.

I am sorry to any band who performs here, but I will NEVER photograph nor attend a show that is at this location.

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