News that the Corner Lounge has closed doesn’t necessarily mean the end for the historic neighborhood tavern located near the intersection of North Central Avenue and Broadway. The bar shut down abruptly on Feb. 7, after nearly three years of mostly continuous operation by Ed Corts and his family.
“My brother, who’s a partner with me, is backing out,” Corts says. “So I need to stop and try to figure out what my options are....I’m hoping and praying we’ll open back up.”
Corts says he may sell the business to someone who will re-open the bar, or he may try to find new partners.
“I want to thank Knoxville and all the Knoxville musicians for everyone’s patronage,” Corts adds.
The Cortses opened their incarnation of the Corner Lounge in 2005, just a few months after Mike Moore’s brief run as owner had ended. It served as a popular neighborhood bar for Old North Knoxville, Fourth and Gill, and downtown, and as a venue for local and out-of-town bands. The history of the bar, at the corner of Central and Irwin Street, stretches back to the 1930s. In the 1970s, Con Hunley was a weekly fixture behind the bar’s piano. “Women came in hopes of meeting Con; men came in hopes of meeting women,” Jack Neely wrote in a Metro Pulse story about the bar’s history.
“It’s a real shame,” says Tim Lee, whose band, the Tim Lee 3, played regularly at the Corner Lounge. “It was one of those rare places where you wanted to play but you also wanted to hang out. I wanted to be there at happy hour as much as I wanted to be there at midnight.”
But there’s some hope that the Corner Lounge will again be put to use in some capacity. Scott Carpenter and Peg Hambright recently bought the building, before the Corts announced their plans, and the building next door. They plan to move Hambright’s MagPies bakery from the Old City into the second building this summer, and also expect to lease space for a yoga studio and restaurant.
Carpenter offered his regrets about the closing in an e-mail: “We had hoped Ed and his family would continue to run the Corner Lounge forever. We’re sorry they’ve closed. The Corner is a special place. We hope that we’ll find the right folks to have it open to the community again soon.”
Don Coffey Jr., the proprietor of Independent Recorders, was in charge of booking bands for the bar and was the mastermind of the Hottfest showcase for local bands held there every April. He sent an e-mail on Monday afternoon: “If you have an upcoming show in February, March, or April I truly apologize,” Coffey wrote. “If The Corner should re-open I will try to make good on all the dates. I enjoyed working with all of you and appreciate your loyalty to the Corner Lounge, as I’m sure the Corts family does as well.”
Friends With Benefits
If you go see any live music at all in the next few days, odds will be better than normal that your cover charge is going to a good cause. There’s a ton of benefit shows happening through this weekend, starting with Blue Mother Tupelo’s free concert on Market Square at noon Thursday, Feb. 14, for Saving Little Hearts, a non-profit organization that supports children with congenital heart defects. On Friday, Feb. 15, Superdrag frontman John Davis is holding a benefit show at Barley’s Taproom in the Old City for Blood: Water Mission, a charity founded by Jars of Clay singer Dan Haseltine to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS in Africa. Davis will be joined by Stewart Pack and The Leningrads. The show starts at 10 p.m.
The Knox Scene Coalition is hosting a Support Our Troops show in the parking lot at Body Graffix Custom Tattoos on Central Avenue Pike Saturday, Feb. 16, starting at 3 p.m. The line-up features In Truth Be Valor, Awake in the Nightmare, Amidst the Mannequins, My Final Resting Place, In Death There Is No Remembrance, The Coat of Arms, and Receive the Arsonist. KSC will be collecting items for care packages for U.S. troops in Iraq: letters, socks, underwear, magazines, non-perishable food, and candy. Admission to the all-ages show is $5. Anyone over 18 who pays the full cover will get a ticket for a raffle to win a free tattoo; anyone who brings care-package items worth more than $5 will receive a free pass to any upcoming KSC event.