The temptations of tiny tiki Tern Club

Architect Brian Pittman of Johnson Architecture enjoying a Mai Tai at Tern Club. “The best one I’ve ever had,” he raved.

I’ve wanted to visit the new tiki bar on the 100 block of Gay Street since it opened in November. The other day, while meeting with our clients over at Johnson Architecture, CEO Daryl Johnson casually mentioned that his firm had worked on the place. I asked if he’d go with me to have a drink there to show me the firm’s handiwork.

Well, that turned into a Johnson Architecture happy hour this past Wednesday night! My colleague Scott Bird and I were lucky enough to be included.

Called the Tern Club, the little place is a delight. You almost can’t help smiling when you are in there. It seats only 40 and is the culmination of a dream for its owners, Jocelyn Morin and Ryan Shanley. (Click here for a News Sentinel story about its opening.)

Johnson Architecture’s Brian Pittman and Eric Bowen worked on the project.”The owners knew what they wanted,” Pittman said. “They were lighthearted, excited and young. And they had a dream.”

The biggest challenge, he said, was figuring out how to get 40 seats into the tiny space. “Believe me, it was not easy!” he laughed.

Michael Schmidt, an intern with Johnson Architecture, is having a drink called “You Go Gin Coco.” Love, love the glass!

After adding a bathroom to bring the space up to code, Pittman said the available usable space got even smaller. “I told the owners, ‘It’s going to be cozy!’ Turns out, that was not only OK, it was probably perfect! That’s what the tiki vibe is. I did the whole project with that song, ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’ playing in my head!”

The little place is charming. My friend Scott, who had been there prior to Wednesday, said he views it as “a nice spot to duck into before or after dinner.”

In addition to the creative (and delicious) cocktails, my favorite part is the glassware in which the cocktails are served — mid-century pieces collected at garage and estate sales. They reminded me of glasses my grandmother used to have and they add a perfect funky vibe to Tern Club.

So, check it out when you get a chance. The address is 135 S. Gay St., where Nama and Sugar Mama’s used to be.

When I arrived, only intern Michael was there. But the lack of customers at that time allowed me to get a good photo of the interior. (The calm would not last long!)

Daryl Johnson, CEO of Johnson Architecture, sipping a rye Manhattan.

Loved the look of the cozy corner table.

Here’s some of the artwork.

Eric Bowen, who also worked on the project for Johnson Architecture, had a Mai Tai.

Isn’t it beautiful?

Johnson Architecture’s Kevin Brown ordered a drink called The Plumed Serpent. It had tequila in it. “Two or three more of these, and we’ll go burn something down!” Kevin said. “When I drink tequila, consequences are not that big a deal.” Ha.

Heather Overton and Danielle Hemsley of Johnson Architecture studied the menu.

Danielle ordered something called a Suffering Bastard! Again, that glass.

Scott Bird from Moxley Carmichael joined Daryl Johnson in a rye Manhattan after he enjoyed this rum Old Fashioned.

Rick Friel of Johnson Architecture was holding down the other end of the tables we had pulled together. With him are a couple of non-Johnson Architecture folks, Melissa Miller, center, and her daughter, Rachel.

Jimmy Ryan and Colleen Riordan, both of Johnson Architecture.

I had a martini and adored the old-fashioned cocktail glass in which it was served.

Jeremiah Corbett of Johnson Architecture had a Blue Hawaiian.

Food offerings are simple, like chips and salsa.

Sarah Holland was the hardworking bartender who kept us all happy.

Here’s what the interior looks like when things are a little more lively.

The carefully curated stack of books on the bar adds a nice touch to a well-thought-out ambience.

There you have it!


Filed under: Business, Downtown, Food, Knoxville. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The temptations of tiny tiki Tern Club

  1. Monique Anderson, on January 31st, 2020 at 1:12 pm said:

    Looks so cute we need to go try it.

  2. Gay Lyons, on January 31st, 2020 at 1:42 pm said:

    I forgot about that place! I need to go there. Love the glass your martini was in. I have some friends coming from Atlanta this weekend. This would be a great place to take them. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on January 31st, 2020 at 2:02 pm said:

    Monique: Definitely! After you are fully recovered!

    Gay: I think your friends will like it.

  4. Pamela Treacy, on January 31st, 2020 at 4:31 pm said:

    I need to go there. Loved seeing all the pics of my architecture peeps!

  5. Danielle Hemsley, on January 31st, 2020 at 4:46 pm said:

    Wonderful exhibition of our happy little happy hour at Tern Club! Thank you for joining us!

  6. Melinda Meador, on January 31st, 2020 at 11:38 pm said:

    Love the cocktail books

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on February 1st, 2020 at 12:01 am said:

    Pamela: Yep! You need to go there!

    Danielle: We had a blast with you guys! Thanks for having us!

    Melinda: I thought that was a very clever touch.

Leave a Reply