In a culture that increasingly yearns for sharing fun experiences with friends, Knox Box Karaoke will offer just that later this spring when it opens at 522 South Gay Street, Suite 102. Not only does it add a new experience downtown, joining the arcade at Harrogate’s Lounge, bowling at Maple Hall, axe throwing at Craft Axe Throwing, Top Golf, and more, but it also (like Maple Hall) answers the question of what to do with the basement spaces alongside Gay Street.
Located directly below Viet Bread and Tea, owner Harold Goldston says it is a perfect space. At about 1200 square feet, it offers plenty of room for a bar and a small stage and can accommodate sixty-to-eighty of your closest friends who have dropped in to enjoy your performance. It’s the first karaoke bar in the immediate downtown area, and Harold thinks Knoxville is ready for the experience he plans to provide. In Japan, small karaoke bars are called boxes, which was the inspiration for the name.
Born at UT hospital and graduated from the University of Tennessee (Political Science and French), Harold is definitely home-grown. After living most of his youth in Jefferson County, he later spent a lot of time around the world. He obtained his M.S. in International Business while living in London, after which he moved to Paris for six months. After additional travel, he settled in Brooklyn for two-and-a-half years, working for American Express as an International Marketing Manager.
His partner in the enterprise is Kevin LaRoche, whom he met as soon as he arrived on the UT campus. The two roomed together, and Kevin later returned to Cookeville where he opened local bar Hooligan’s Half Irish Pub in 2012. Kevin will split time between the two enterprises, and Harold will be the general manager at Knox Box Karaoke.
Harold said he reached a point where he felt he was working too many hours for a corporation. His real pleasure was singing in various New York City karaoke bars, like his favorite, Boho Karaoke in the Lower East Side. He said the owners would cue “Mr. Bright Side” by the Killers as he walked in the door. He credits that spot and others as his inspiration for the space he is developing. Expect a lot of neon lights and a range of music like you may never have experienced before.
While his ideas for the bar are still taking shape, he’s planning special nights like having a live band for the audience members to sing with on stage. He also hopes to host industry nights. He has plans for a hip-hop night hosted by a friend who is a local hip-hop artist. “People can sing what they like, but I want it to be diverse. I’ll probably have a drag night. I want everyone to feel comfortable and welcome.”
A wireless mike will allow patrons to sing from anywhere, though the stage is encouraged. “You can sing at your table, into your beer at the bar, or even in the bathroom” though he indicated bathroom performances would be a bit disappointing.
The business will feature a full bar offering most of the popular cocktails. He plans to have beer on tap and will start with a four-keg system. He anticipates the beer will be all local, saying “Knoxville is producing some great beer.” He’ll also have appetizers and “gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.” The menu is a work in progress.
Harold says his family didn’t have much when he was growing up, and he’s worked a wide range of jobs since he was thirteen and started picking apples. He enjoys working hard to try to make something happen. “I came back to Knoxville because I see huge potential to continue its growth. A lot of people talk badly about the South and there are so many good people here.”
“I want it to be a place for everyone. I want to throw a karaoke party every night for Knoxville.” To that end, he plans to be open seven days a week and at least some evenings until 3:00 a.m. You can follow the progress of the business (and give them a “follow” or a “like”) on Instagram and Facebook.