It may be safe to say that in all of Knoxville's byzantine history of taverns, saloons, and beer joints, there has never been an establishment called the Crown & Goose. The new pub materializing at 123 South Central in late February will be different in other ways, too, a challenge to several paradigms. On the banner above its century-old facade is a line which doesn't quite explain the matter: "Coming Soon: Authentic London ‘Gastropub.'"
"It sounds like something to do with the doctor," admits Jeffrey Nash, the silver-haired, black-attired Englishman whose casual accent and dashing demeanor might remind you of a Carnaby Street Mod. The former Londoner has been well-known among downtowners for several years, but until now primarily as a residential developer: the Keystone Building on Church and the Sandstone Building on Clinch, both successful townhouse-type renovations, are his. Larger projects like North Central Village and the Crimson Building post-fire reconstruction are in the works. The Crown & Goose may be his most personal project to date.
The name is explained in a press release: "The crown is a symbol of respect for the royal family. The use of the crown was also rewarded to British subjects for good service in a long-standing trade, so the significance of a pub bearing the crown was a great honor." As for the Goose, there's a longer story having to do with the Temple of Juno in ancient Rome.
"The goose is one of the royal birds, but is also known for its loyalty," Nash says. "We have a real loyalty to Knoxville and to the Old City."
Just when you start to suspect he's putting you on, Nash puts it all into context. "The Crown and Goose is a little pub in northwest London," Nash says, "where my son and daughter-in-law met. Because several people who met there got married, it got a reputation as the Love Pub."
The loyalty part, at least, seems genuine. Nash says he's determined to give adults a beachhead on the Old City, which, despite some diversity of attractions, has for the last few years been best known for its attractions to young adults who, valid ID finally in hand, are in a hurry to get in some variety of trouble. Nash's establishment is intended to appeal mainly to the neighborhood; he emphasizes that the 100 block of South Central and South Gay is indeed a neighborhood now. Thanks to several recent condo developments, a few hundred residents can walk to the pub without even crossing a street. He adds that dedicated parking—at some expense, they've bought 40 spaces from the lot across the street, just for Crown & Goose patrons—will appeal to mature suburbanites who aren't used to walking around downtown.
The other attraction to the mature has to do with that odd word on the front of the building. From now on, when you see "gastropub," Nash would prefer you not think first of your gastroenterologist, but rather the French gastronomique, which implies an emphasis on food. English pubs rarely offered much in the way of cuisine; the term was coined in the '90s to connote an English pub traditional in every way except for its more-upscale menu. New York's first gastropub opened only about four years ago. Nash says he's aware of only three or four in the U.S.
The architecture of the Crown & Goose will also be a departure in some respects, something more of a European line; in good weather the front wall will fold open. "It will open completely to the streetscape," Nash says, giving even the interior of the pub a bit of the ambience of a sidewalk cafe. As if that's not enough, it will also have a rear beer garden. Wrought-iron gates will offer an entrance to the garden, which will wrap around the back of the block of buildings, rendering a grassy patch with some interesting views of the middle of an interesting urban block that looks something like a scene from The Naked City or an early experiment in cubism. Nash says it's inspired by the yards beside English pubs of his childhood. His parents would go inside for a pint, but kids under 16 weren't allowed. "They would plunk me outside with a bag of chips and a Coca-Cola."
Amenities for kids are amenities for older adults. An intuitive scene of London will appear in a 60-by-30-foot mural alongside the beer garden.
Helping Nash and his American-born wife, Pat, co-owners of the project, are Jeffrey DeAlejandro, Pat Nash's son, a former Louisiana Tech baseball pitcher who will help with the day-to-day operations of the pub, and general manager Bob Wilson, late of the Baker-Peters Jazz Club.
To suggest an English pub might require a chef would have seemed bizarre a few years ago, but gastropubs do have chefs. The one at the Crown & Goose is Michaelangelo Morse. He might be employable for his name alone, but with experience at Baker-Peters and the Knoxville Convention Center, he has a reputation as an expert chef specializing in French, Southwestern, and Asian cuisines. He'll be adding English to his repertoire. "We'll have fish and chips, and bangers and mash, but it won't be greasy, nor heavy. It will be prepared in a much more healthy manner than it would usually be in the U.K."
This challenge to the conventional English pub may not mean as much to Knoxvillians as the English pub itself—and it will be very English, Nash promises, with a polished-oak bar and all-English live music on weekends. The English music part is rather vague at this point, but Nash suggests a bluegrass band playing Beatles or a jazz band playing Eric Clapton. "We'll present British music in a number of different genres," he says. Would he stretch to include, say, Irish music? After a pause that suggests you should have known better than to ask, he says, "This is an English pub."