Sometimes in my journey of writing this column I find myself spending a good amount of time in detective mode. Often I lay the groundwork with research months before I ever step foot in a bar to do an article about it. Now, don't get me wrong, most of this research is a simple Google search. OK, that makes it sound too easy. Anyway, what I mean to say is, if you are opening a nightlife venue in Knoxville, chances are I know about it within weeks of it becoming public record.
Such was the case with Club Rio. It first showed up on my radar in the late summer when I found the beer permit on knoxnews.com. I went by the place during the day shortly thereafter and found the building was formerly a CVS. I figured I had the wrong place until I got out and read the sign on the door that said "21 and Up." Maybe this was no CVS after all. I filed it in my notes and hoped to remember to stop by the next time I was out late on a weekend to see if indeed this place was a bar after all.
Public records last showed it as a CVS in 2001. After that the building was purchased and turned into a sports bar called Kick Shots. My predecessor on this column, Greg Wood, had written about the place in 2007 and in 2009. It's hard to tell what proved to be the end for Kick Shots, but I am sure the Henley Bridge closing wasn't good if they were already running slim margins.
I arrived on a Saturday night in December around 10 p.m. and found the place open but few cars in the parking lot. I went up to the fellow at the front door and told him why I was there. He summoned a manager. After speaking to them I learned that the place had a very late crowd. I told them I would come back later that evening when it was busier. I never made it back. I think part of me was convinced it wouldn't be any busier and another part of me just completely forgot. Yet another part of me was a little creeped out that the place had no sign anywhere on the building.
I showed up again just over a month later this time closer to 11. Cars in the parking lot gave me hope that it would be busier. I walked into an empty room. A vast, music-filled empty room. The place seemed pretty hugeaccording to my quick stride to the back. There I ran into Valerie Acevedo, one of the bartenders . Since no signage existed outside the club telling me the name of the place, I asked her. She told me it was Club Rio. I also learned it was only open on Saturdays since its debut on Dec. 16. I asked her about the crowd and she assured me it would get busier as it approached midnight. I grabbed a Modelo Especial and found a place to post up awaiting the droves of grooving patrons.
Just as promised, 11:30 struck and the population of the place doubled in two minutes. In the next thirty minutes the room became much less sparse and most of those in attendance didn't hesitate to get out on the dance floor to shake their moneymakers. I have to say, the DJ had it going on. The music got the majority of the crowd dancing, it was way too loud and it didn't stop. This is exactly what a dance club is all about. If you fond of Latin-influenced dance music, check out Club Rio. Me? I will be at my house doing the electric slide and feeling old.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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