Manhattan's, one of the few Old City establishments left over from the neighborhood's late-'80s rebirth, had its final last call last weekend. The bar closed its doors for good on Saturday, June 26, and a packed house of old-timers and regulars turned out for a sweaty set by local indie-rock singer/songwriter Stewart Pack and his band the Silent Kays.
"It was a great, great night," says Pack. "It had the tone of a celebration more than a funeral. It was really a nice night."
Manhattan's opened on the southwest corner of Central Street and Jackson Avenue in 1987, during the wave of revitalization that saw ellaGuru's, Annie's, and Planet Earth attract retail, entertainment, and visitors to the long-dormant warehouse district. It's been owned since 1998 by Frank Gardner, who also owns Patrick Sullivan's Saloon on the opposite corner. Gardner told the News Sentinel that managing two restaurants has been exhausting, and that he reached an agreement with the building's owners to end his lease.
A note on the bar's website on Friday read, "Thank you Knoxville for 12 wonderful years. We've had lots of great memories with many people to thank... This Saturday June 26th will be our last call..."
It was just coincidence that Pack and the Silent Kays played on Manhattan's final night of business. The band members didn't know until the day before that Saturday would be a special occasion.
"We had no idea when we booked it," Pack says. "The day it became public that it would be the last day is when we found out. We had a rehearsal Thursday night and didn't rehearse a set for a special event."
It's probably also just coincidence that the bar has closed just a couple of weeks after blues guitarist Hector Qirko moved to South Carolina. For the last several years, the Hector Qirko Band held an irregular residency at Manhattan's, playing several stretches of biweekly happy hour shows on Friday evenings.