Armstrong's Bar & Grill
Sometimes I can’t believe some of things I run into when visiting bars to cover for this column.
From blatantly sexist signage to very unkempt bathrooms to bartenders who shouldn’t ever be in a position where they have to talk to the customer directly. Recently I went out and checked out a bar that will remain unnamed and was instantly turned off by the place. There was a sign at the front door that listed their rights as a venue. The second one was the right to “Search any person all persons and belongings, for any time, for any reason.” Uh, no, sorry, you don’t have that right. I had a beer, and out the door I went.
I eventually found myself driving up Highway 168 toward the east end of town to a place called Armstrong’s. I had passed the bar before several times, just never on the weekend when I usually do my article. I pulled into a small parking lot and found a parking place close to the bar. The outside appearance was unlike most bars just outside the city limits of Knoxville. First of all, the place was well lit and you could see in the bar through large, clean front windows. I know this may sound funny to most people who haven’t visited bars outside city limits, but most have no outward-facing open windows you can see in.
I walked through the front door and saw a row of seats at the bar occupied by folks of varying ages. The bar stretched down about 30 feet to my right. On the narrow back wall of the bar I saw something that caught my eye, bottles of various types of liquor. I took a seat at a vacant end of the bar nearly underneath a flat screen television that was broadcasting an NBA game. Directly behind me were two electronic dart boards and just to my left were a few pool tables in different ends of the back half of the bar. The overall appearance of the place was more like a restaurant than a bar.
The bartender came across the bar to where I was sitting and I reached out to greet him with a handshake. He looked at my somewhat suspiciously as he shook my hand as likely it wasn’t a common greeting. His name was Robert Jolley. He had dark rimmed glasses, a goatee and spoke in a friendly but somewhat soft tone. He directed me to a section of seated folks at the bar where the owner of the establishment sat. I introduced myself to her and we moved to a quieter section of the bar so I could ask her some questions about the history of the establishment.
Keely Armstrong took over Armstrong’s 17 years ago from her parents who opened it nearly five years before that. The bar only recently had been approved to start selling liquor by the drink, making it one of the only spots in Knox County outside of city limits to be able to do so. This explained the assortment of booze I had witnessed upon entering.
I millled around a bit, checking out the whole bar and their rather large patio area before finally striking up a conversation with some girls who had come in with two guys to have a drink. One told me, “I like coming here because I don’t have to worry about immediately getting hit on, even if I show up alone.” Not often do you find a bar in an industrial area that a pretty young lady says something like that. Maybe it’s time you and your lady friends paid a visit to Armstrong’s.
Address: 3307 E. Gov. John Sevier Highway
Smoking Indoors: No
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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