Bottoms up

3 Forge restaurants begin serving liquor
Dec. 18, 2012 @ 11:02 PM

Liquor is flowing at three Pigeon Forge restaurants: Mellow Mushroom, Blue Moose Burgers & Wings and Johnny Carino's Italian Restaurant.

All three are operated by the Knoxville restaurant firm Diverse Concepts.

The restaurants were developed by Knoxville business partners Darby Campbell and Bob McManus, who acquired the bankrupt Belle Island Village project in 2011 and are developing it as The Island at Pigeon Forge.

In 2011, Campbell and McManus told The Mountain Press that The Island would suceed only if they could recruit major restaurant chains, and that such restaurants are unlikely to open in the city unless they can sell liquor by the drink.

Another Pigeon Forge restaurant, Tony Roma's, has received a liquor license. Liquor sales at Tony Roma's had not begun as of Monday.

According to Diverse Concepts operations manager Tom Horne, the company applied for the liquor licenses soon after the Sevier County Election Commission certified the result of the Nov. 6 referendum legalizing liquor by the drink. Last Friday afternoon, the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission granted the licenses. Then the restaurants' bars were stocked with liquor.

"When we applied for our permits, we started training our employees and getting the necessary supplies," Horne said. The restaurants already sold beer and wine, which were legal in Pigeon Forge before the referendum.

Citing voting improprieties, the group Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge has contested the resultsof the vote.

Amid the controversy, Horne said the restaurants "just moved forward with the process. What is going to happen is going to happen."

Horne is pleased with the outcome of the vote.

"I think everybody's in agreement that it kind of levels the playing field in all areas of hospitality," he said. Liquor by the drink already was legal in Sevierville and Gatlinburg.

"I accept that people are still opposed," Horne said. "But the tax implications are, there's going to be a benefit for the schools. I think it's a win-win for everybody in Pigeon Forge."

kburns@themountainpress.com