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.”
NEW RESTAURANT IN WEST KNOXVILLE:Firebirds Wood Fired Grill combines fine dining and casual dining in West Knoxville
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.
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.”
Make the most of the downtime
Instead of working, employees traveled with Lenn to farms and suppliers during downtime to learn more about where their restaurant supplies come from. Centuries Harvest Farms in Greenback and Benton’s smoky mountain hams in Madisonville were among the stops.
Employees even had the opportunity to make pottery with McQueen pottery, who supplies the restaurant with plates.
Lenn said JC Holdway also used the downtime to train staff and hire even more people.
And like the employees who were happy to go back to work, old customers are back and enjoying JC Holdway’s menu again.
“That was the best feeling to see our loyal customers and even new customers,” Lenn said. “I’m glad we still have people who like to come to the restaurant.”
URBAN KNOXVILLE NEWSLETTER:Downtown news – straight to your inbox. Sign up for the Urban Knoxville newsletter
Visit the reopened restaurant?
The online dinner menu is highlighted by a braised pork osso bucco and Verlasso salmon. Cornbread with sorghum butter and Cruze Farm buttermilk mashed potatoes make up the side portion of the menu.
Reservations through Resy are “highly encouraged”, according to the restaurant’s website, although walk-ins are first come, first served.
JC Holdway was selected as one of the “12 Best New Restaurant in America” by eater.com in 2017. The restaurant is located in the historic daylight building, which also includes Trevor Bayne’s Mahalo Coffee.