I found Scott and Bernadette West up a tree, more or less. I’d been offered a tour of the Scruffy City Hall construction at 32 Market Square. On the Moonshine Roof Garden, covered in stain, I found them both putting the finishing touches on the Magic Beer Tree. I’m struck by the fact that the Wests relentlessly pursue new ideas and projects. Many people might be content to have an attractive rooftop with a small bar, for example. To the Wests, that was just the beginning.
The Magic Beer Tree may be the largest sculpture or piece of art in the city prior to the Jolly installation at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Scott suggested maybe it would still be the heaviest. He may be right. He and Bernadette have taken several classes in the use of cement in sculpture – one with the preeminent concrete artist in the US – in an effort to understand how to accomplish an effect called “faux bois” or “false wood.” The result is the Magic Beer Tree and it’s really worth the trip up the steps to the roof of the pub.
It’s actually multifunctional in addition to being absolutely cool. The inside of the structure serves as a green house in the winter while real foliage grows on the top to give the “tree” some leaves. Internal beams connect to adjacent walls to add structural support. Beneath the deck on which the structure stands are steel support beams like those used in skyscrapers. Best of all, it has a tap installed in the front with taps for local and regional beers.
As Scott, Mike Gibson (whose “moonshine” article was a recent cover story for Metro Pulse) and I walked down the steps to take a tour of Scruffy City Hall, RB Morris and Karly Stribling walked in and Scott swept them into the tour with his expansive personality, becoming more animated with the larger audience.
The ground floor of Scruffy City Hall will feature a bar along the right-hand wall as patrons enter. To the left will be stairs to the second level. Moving into the hall an “Appalachian Viking” theme will emerge in the form of huge metal chandeliers, possibly carved heads and lighting provided by faux gas flames.
Scott is particularly proud of the huge wooden tables and benches which will be attached to the side walls and can be lowered when desired. “Viking tables,” he calls them. Add tapestries and several tons of crystals embedded in the walls and the result will be a venue unlike any other – maybe anywhere. For those of us who remember World Grotto, it’s no surprise the Wests can build a unique, and maybe a little bizarre, space.
The seating capacity of the room will be somewhere north of 200 and he envisions it being more of a listening room than the main stage at Preservation Pub. Food will be served and smoking will not be allowed anywhere in the Hall. The stage is one of the biggest downtown at twenty-two feet across and a green room is being constructed for the artists who perform there.
The stage is a transitional element to another significant feature of the hall: The front of the stage will be some sort of re-enforced glass exposing a brewing operation in the basement. Tours may or may not be offered of the brewery, but it promises to be yet another striking feature of the operation. The basement was dirt only and wasn’t a full-sized height, but it’s been expanded and concrete has been added all around to make the perfect space.
Part of the operation required more height than was available downstairs, but Scott said he “found the solution in a dream,” when he dreamed that the taller equipment could be placed under the stage which served as a taller ceiling and yielded the opportunity to expose part of the brewery to the floor above. A local micro-brewer has been tapped as brew-master. Other local and regional beers will be offered, as well.
And then there’s the upstairs. It’s been the controversial part of the project, particularly over the West’s desire to have a balcony which some local preservationists opposed as not typical of traditional Market Square architecture. As I noted when I wrote at greater length about the issue, the current façade is not historic and includes four windows whereas the building originally had three. In the end, the balcony request was approved.
But the floor won’t just have one balcony, it will have two. Separated by a second bar, one balcony will overlook Market Square while the other will overlook the stage a floor below. Seating will be limited in the small balcony and may be offered to select patrons. It sounds like nothing else around.
The hope is to have the facility rocking by New Year’s Eve, but that may be a stretch. At this moment the sun is shining through the roof and into the second floor. Scott said the plan is to replace the roof next week, which will allow for the interior work to intensify. Still, even in its current rough form, it’s easy to catch Scott’s enthusiasm and see the space through his eyes, as he imagines its future, rather than to see the massive amount of work yet to be completed.
It may be a while before the vision becomes reality, but it most certainly will happen. The frenetic plans continue to flow. As I left I asked Bernadette if she ever wished she could push a pause button and catch her breath. She laughed her easy laugh and admitted it was true. She noted that prison was a pretty long pause and as Scott had said directly, earlier, the implication seemed to be that no additional pauses are planned for a long time to come. The projects will likely continue to flow for the foreseeable future.
One final note: Jack Neely did his usual superb job in last week’s Metro Pulse, writing about the same topic. While some of the information will be the same, he does a great job of running through the history of the building. If you missed his piece, you can read it here.