Downtown Knoxville restaurant J.C. Holdway reopens after repairs

For the past two months, JC Holdway has been on hold.

It all started when an HVAC problem activated the fire suppression system on June 8, Chef Joseph Lenn told Knox News, causing water to enter the kitchen and forcing customers and staff to evacuate.

But after months of repairs and waiting for parts, the downtown restaurant reopened on Tuesday and is prepared for its first weekend back in operation.

“It was a bit like riding a bike,” Lenn said. “We just went back in.”

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Water damage leads to renovations

Lenn, who also owns JC Holdway, became the first Tennessee chef to receive the prestigious James Beard Foundation Prize in 2013 for Best Southeast Chef while working at Blackberry Farm. in 2016, JC Holdway opened at 501 Union Ave. just off Market Square and has since become a downtown staple for fresh, seasonal food.

“We’ll just keep doing what we’ve always done,” Lenn said.

But water spilled into the restaurant, damaging drywall and floors, has prevented staff from serving guests for the past two months.

The floors have since been refinished and the bathrooms have been renovated. The damaged HVAC motor took months to replace due to supply chain issues, Lenn said.

A smoking air conditioner forced customers and staff to evacuate JC Holdway in 2018.

This was not the first HVAC problem at JC Holdway. More than 50 people had to evacuate the restaurant in 2018 when an air con unit on top of the building started smoking.

“It was hard because we were trying to keep everyone working,” Lenn said of the most recent incident. “Everyone wanted to work.”

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