What do you get when you cross the Underground, Flamingo's, the patio at
O'Charleys and a goldfish pond? You get the massive complex soon to be
ruling the Old City called the Neptune Theater. If you haven't heard of
Neptune yet, you will soon.
Since moving from the old Mercury Theater a little more than a month ago,
the owner Kevin Nicely has turned what used to be the old Black Sheep Cafe
into an entertainment masterpiece that no one else in Knoxville can touch.
The most impressive part of it is that most of the place is still under
The outside of Neptune reminded me of a European cafe, where there is a
beautiful patio with trees that blows O'Charley's out of the sky. Standing
in the patio in front of Neptune's mansion I felt as if the park was right
I was tempted to ask for a some matzo and kir but decided to go with a
Miller Highlife instead. I was content at this point just to sit next to
the goldfish pond and enjoy the Old City in a way I never have before,
outside drinking a beer under the shade of a tree. I don't believe there
are even other trees in the Old City.
The manager of the Neptune, George Bove, gave me the grand tour. I could
tell he was happy to take a break and show me around, because of the
tremendous amount of work he and Kevin Nicely have put in over the last
month. Just the day before, they built the goldfish pond in about four
The downstairs is divided into two large sections. One section is a dimmed
lounge-like room with great portraits on the walls. It is a perfect room
where dancers can take a load off and rest in nice, lush booths that seem
great for conversation away from the music and dancing.
There is also a free foosball table and the original arcade version of
Asteroids. No that is not typo, FREE foosball. On the other side of
downstairs is a large area for dancing with a stage that seemed to be made
for scratchers and Dee-jays. They even have a dance screen for those
ambitious dancers that like the spotlight.
Practically surrounding the entire dance floor is one of the largest bars
you will find in the area. The bar is decorated with familiar trinkets and
dolls from the Merc and offers ample space for large orders being nearly a
yard and a half wide.
With three glass-paned doors that open to allow easy access to the patio
outside dancers never have to worry about the heat that cooks most dancers
on the Strip.
Right when you walk inside there is a great staircase going upstairs. Where
the great skateboard collection from the Merc soon will be hanging.
Upstairs we found Nicely building the stage where bands will play once the
large room is opened.
On both sides of the room, there are areas dedicated to beer troughs, and
in the back, a perfect corner for lighting and sound. There is even an
annex to the stage ideal for horn sections. Here's the "kicker," there is a
gigantic loading elevator for heavy equipment bands will bring in. Bands
will not be disappointed to play here. But wait there's more.
Walking through the doors in the back, we enter yet another room
illuminated by sunlight with black iron-cast tables and chairs on a super
checkered floor. Without having to go all the way downstairs to get
outside, one can walk out onto the porch overlooking the trees and patio.
With this much elbow room Bove is allowed to have three different shows
going on all at once.
"We can have a jazz band outside on the patio, dancing downstairs and maybe
a killer punk band upstairs," Bove said.
Now I know what your going to ask, How can one place hold all that music?
Once you see how massive Neptune is you'll understand. Don't be mistaken.
This is not just another old warehouse or factory turned dance club. The
place is a mansion, and each room has its own style and feeling. The
bathrooms hadn't even been cleaned yet from the night before, and they
still were cleaner than any on the Strip. They even have a couch to sit on
while you wait.
"We are trying to become that respirator to help breathe life into the Old
City," Bove said.
Neptune has so much to offer the Old City even now in its early stages.
Soon the kitchen will be renovated and a menu will be offered allowing
Neptune to be open both day and night.
As it becomes closer to finished, other night-spots will fear Neptune and
its rule over the sea of bars and clubs in Knoxville. To my amazement, the
stage upstairs was practically finished by Nicely during the time I had
Neptune is a gem and will be attracting people for a long time to the Old
City. Which is a great change from the monotonous bars and venues on the
Strip that are maybe quick to get to, but are just as quick to leave.
Neptune looks to rule bar scene
Published: Mon Apr 06, 1998 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 01:30 p.m.