In news that caused much hand-wringing over the years, four Pigeon Forge restaurants now offer liquor by the drink including the Mellow Mushroom, Blue Moose Burgers and Wings, and Johnny Carino’s Italian Restaurant. Each began offering liquor by the drink to customers on Friday, Dec. 14. These three are all managed by the same group – Diverse Concepts.
And all three – Blue Moose, Mellow Mushroom, and Johnny Carino’s, plus one more, can all sell liquor, legally, by the drink according to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Pigeon Forge just recently voted on a referendum to approve liquor by the drink sales that passed by 100 votes in November. That would put Pigeon Forge in strong company with surrounding Smoky Mountain cities like Knoxville, Maryville, and Asheville, NC.
Diverse Concepts is represented by Tom Horne who commented on the issue following the announcement that their restaurants would now be serving adult beverages of that nature. According to him, it’s been such an issue in the past for their businesses that customers have simply decided not to eat there because they didn’t offer a full bar menu. Towns like Gatlinburg and Sevierville have reaped the rewards of the lack of liquor by the drink in Pigeon Forge. Until now, Pigeon Forge restaurants only had the option to offer beer.
It has had an effect on wait staff as well with staff leaving for restaurants that did offer liquor, thus resulting in better tips in most cases.
Overall Horne says it’s more of a convenience for their guests and another option on the menu. Moreover, it gives them equal footing with other restaurant businesses in the area and makes good financial sense in the long term.
In recent years he says he’s observed more and more restaurants electing to set up shop in neighboring cities to take advantage of liquor by the drink sales. Still, it wasn’t without some opposition. That opposition in the form of lawsuits has since been thrown out by a judge and restaurants are moving ahead with business.
For most it’s a welcome change in Pigeon Forge as new reforms aim to keep business in town. For others, it will always be a contentious issue that only time can help ease.