A Major Downtown Restaurant Closes on Gay Street

Gay Street, Five Bar in Foreground, Knoxville, December 2015

It’s been sometime since a major business on Gay Street closed its doors. Restaurants, in particular seem to be bustling with waits often the norm. For Urban Woman and me, this one stings a bit as it was one of our favorite restaurants – particularly for brunch, but often for dinner, especially when we had out of town guests.

For us, from the time they opened, a visit to Five felt just a little like traveling without leaving town. Maybe it was just the chandeliers which gave it a bit of a fancy touch without all the fuss. And we really liked the food. We liked the simplicity of the five choices. My fish was always just right, the shrimp appetizer could not be beat. We often made a meal of just that.

The brunch hit all the right notes for us. I love a little jazz in the background and when we could get an outside table on a warm Sunday morning, the volume of the band was perfect. The crab cakes and beignets were always perfect. We did notice that sometimes not as many people joined us as we might have expected.

Five Bar Restaurant, 430 South Gay Street, Knoxville, September 2014

Still, it was a surprise when I was contacted by co-owner Chris Eddings this weekend with the information that Five would close at the end of this week. Sometimes businesses start to feel like they may be struggling, but if there were symptoms of this closure, I missed them. And we will miss them.

We also had one of our most profound Thanksgivings there, eating at the table with a homeless man. The restaurant opened its doors every Thanksgiving to anyone, regardless of ability to pay. Those who paid or made a donation had their money given the love kitchen. All the labor and food were donated.

Also missed will be the free meals they provided to area subsidized-housing facilities. Through their American Lunch program, they took fresh food to local people in need. Employees volunteered (eventually earning a bonus for the work) to serve those in need via the American Lunch truck. It was a much appreciated human gesture for many of the residents.

5 Bar’s American Lunch with Ariel McCasland and Anah Skelton Serve Meals at Summit Towers, Knoxville, Februrary 2016

Five is a chain restaurant – Knoxville was their fifth location – but they never felt like a chain, to me. With their charity work and relationship with groups like the Love Kitchen, they really tried to integrate themselves into the community. In the end, however, rent has to be covered, employees paid, food and supplies purchased, and enough has be left over to make the business worth remaining open. That apparently didn’t happen.

Last night Cris forwarded this letter to Knoxville and asked that I share it:

Dear Knoxville:

We regret to announce that we will be closing our restaurant ​FIVE at the end of this month.

We fell in love with Knoxville when we got here, and we are still in love with it.  We had hoped to do great things, but businesses have to be profitable to survive.  We gave it our full effort for almost 4 years and we are just not able to continue.

I​t is always disappointing when forced to close a business, ​but it doesn’t stop there.  We hate to let ​our employees down – ​people who have given us a significant portion of their lives.  ​All of our workers will be given severance pay and job offers at our other locations.  ​It’s upsetting to disappoint our loyal customers who showed amazing support ​over the years.  We regret not being able to continue the operation of our American Lunch program and ​our Thanksgiving Day feast to support our friends at The Love Kitchen

Thank you to everyone for the incredible memories.  The relationships we have built will always be held close to our hearts.  Our landlord, neighbors, and friends have been the best any business could ask for, and we can’t express enough gratitude for the support they have given us since the beginning.

Knoxville is an incredible town with great restaurants. We leave hoping you know that we are deeply humbled to have been a part of your culture and hospitality.

With utmost respect and appreciation,

FIVE

So, in the end, there’s not much more to say. Not all businesses will succeed, but this is one that I thought would be in the city for a long time. If you are so inclined, stop by and wish them well this week. They may not be local, but they’ve been good neighbors.

Comments

  1. Cris is one of the classiest businesses owners I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I’m happy to know the company he’s an owner in is still profitable in other cities. Knoxville is a savage market for restaurantuers.

  2. This is such a loss for Knoxville – it was a great restaurant and the owners/employees gave back to the most vulnerable members of our community. I’m so sad to see them go.

  3. I have some great memories at this place. I am sad to see it go.

  4. How does any business survive downtown with lease prices crazy expensive? Just a cursory look online at commercial property cost is enough to scare off any potential small business owner!

    • Most are making it work pretty well… Let’s not act like there is tons of turnover. Like all businesses, some succeed, some don’t.

  5. Julia G Michel says

    When you say “end of the week”, will they be open this weekend?

  6. Wishing another area would have been more suitable? Homberg area seems perfect for this venue, as parking downtown is not easy for many. Could there be a reconsideration?? Knoxville was in love with you!!!

    • I don’t think that parking was the issue. Keeping things to 5 minute walks or less, there are the Promenade parking garage directly behind them, State Street Parking Garage across the street from there, street parking in front of the restaurant on the side streets, Market Square a 4-5 minute walk away, or the surface lot near Bijou another 5 minute walk.

  7. Sad to see them go, but I can’t say it was completely out of the blue. Five always seemed to sit uneasily between “casual restaurant” and “fine dining.”

  8. Sad. Ate there last night. Always great food and service. For some reason they couldn’t attract customers. Nearby restaurants would be jammed and Five Bar would be near empty. Usually it’s obvious why a restaurant isn’t working. This one’s a head scratcher.

  9. I’m sorry to hear Five Bar is closing.

  10. They always seemed busy when I went by. I tried to eat there multiple times but the wait was always too long. It’s a shame I didn’t ever get to

  11. Melissa McCoy says

    They are open through March 31. I went last night since I had heard about the closing earlier and friends had gift cards to redeem (I hope they’ve pulled those gifts cards at CostCo by the way!). I love this place. I never understood was it wasn’t jammed all the time. The food is truly excellent, the service is wonderful, the prices are great and it has a wonderful intimate, yet hip atmosphere. I asked why they were closing and got the answer that they simply didn’t make enough to keep paying the rent — that the landlord charged as if every night were a Saturday night crowd. I sure wish they could have worked something out. We actually need MORE places like this in Knoxville. I have to admit, Knoxville is rough on restaurants, and I am sure sick of seeing the same crap on every corner. Five was a breath of fresh air in so many ways. Sigh…

  12. G. Mitchell says

    Sad for them. We never seemed to see anyone in there when we stopped by. Maybe rents were simply too high.

  13. Jennifer Coppock says

    So sad to see Five go. Wonderful food and I love how they have given back to our community. I have a niece who works at this location and two other nieces who work at the Chattanooga location, which is also closing. They’ve all enjoyed working for this company and were shocked and saddened to hear the news.

    • Its probably the city taxes and maybe the leaser of the bldgs fault. I have opened a business before and had to shut it down because of cost. Our local and federal governments have no budget. Yhey spend how they like and maybe its because they are all millionaires. Who knows. The government has made it to where we make them rich while we get poor.. Why we keep letting this happen is beyond me.

  14. Shari McMahon says

    So sorry to hear this. Great food and people. Josh was so warm and friendly to our group last week. Wish they could relocate if the rent is too high.

  15. It’s off topic, but can you address the Tomato Head Brewery / Bakery that is/was supposed to go on Central at Bernard?

  16. Chardonai says

    I’m so sad to hear this!! I just celebrated my 30th Birthday there in January (We drove up from Dandridge) and they exceeded my expectations! The food, the atmosphere, the live music…they had it all! I was completely unaware of the work they did in the community however. That makes this closure even more upsetting! Wishing them the best of luck in future endeavors!

  17. Pamela Schoenewaldt says

    The spare menu didn’t really invite repeat visits. Of all the branding options, “five” seemed gimmicky and not customer-driven. Given the fact that a smaller menu might lead to economies in stocking, the prices seemed high and the food fairly heavy. Anyway, with all the other options, “Five” never came up when we were thinking of a place to eat.

  18. Maybe if the city wouldnt screw them on their taxes they might be able to afford to stay.

  19. They did a wonderful Thanksgiving day thing.

  20. I always wonder why they don’t try changing something up before throwing in the towel….

  21. Sad news and unfortunate in the sense that perhaps it arrived just a couple of years early. There’s almost certainly going to be more people in and around town looking for a good place to dine when all these hotels are open. The location is ideal!

  22. Angie Vickers says

    Is there a way to redeem a gift card I have for five?

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