Facts, Not Fiction

 
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    Iconic Knoxville bar, The Last Lap
    #1
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    The best bar I ever went into as a student at Tennessee was The Last Lap. It's the kind of place that the most clever restaurant/bar designers in the world couldn't dream up in a million years. It was so quirky and strange, I smiled every time I went in. Really, laughed. It was the quintessential college bar. It was owned by a mysterious person (to me) named Jim England, who I never saw and never had seen (until Saturday!). The Last Lap was featured in the 1977 Sports Illustrated college football preview issue. Since that day, their advertising included the words "As featured in Sports Illustrated." Or at least every ad of theirs I saw had those words.

    Back then, the "Strip" (the part of Cumberland Avenue with bars and restaurants that runs through the campus) was really ugly. Overhead utilities, chopped-up sidewalks, weeds. It was embarrassing. But the Strip had tons of unique college nightspots, restaurants, etc. So it had great character anyhow. Since then, they've beautified the Strip. Underground utilities, brick sidewalks, landscaping, benches, lights. But the businesses on the Strip today suck (with a couple exceptions). I guess the best bar on the Strip now is Panera Bread!

    Mr. England was great with his Tennessee sports memorabilia he hung here and there in the place. 1928 football team here. Bernard King there. Etc. It made you proud of your school. One thing I always noticed was there were a lot of track pictures and other track things. Maybe a baton, shoes. Don't recall exactly.

    Fast forward to last Saturday. We were in Knoxville and went over to the Wild Boar for a football viewing party. I just recently learned that Mr. England owns the Wild Boar as well as a few places in Gatlinburg. He's well into his 70s and is still as active as ever. I asked the guy hosting the viewing party, Knox radio personality Tony Basilio, if Mr. England was there. He said he was. I said that I'd love to meet him.

    Tony took me over to Mr. England, who could not have been nicer. When Tony said I was from Chattanooga, Mr. England said, "You know I'm from Cleveland, don't you?" Cleveland is a suburb of Chattanooga. I had not known that. He then said, "I ran track at UT. Wasn't any good, but I loved it. I gave The Last Lap the name to honor the 1974 Tennessee NCAA track and field champions." I had no idea about that. I said, "No wonder the place was so great. A track guy owned it!" I was just so happy to learn this about The Last Lap.

    I asked him why he closed "The Lap" and the Old College Inn. He said lawsuits. He had to bail out. Wound up selling and moving to Florida. Got bored and returned to get back into the business in a big way.

    That is the rest of the story, and I'll bet 99% of Tennessee fans and students don't know it.
    Last edited by BillVol; 11-13-2019 at 12:51 AM.
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    #2
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    Jan 2012
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    from an IP that never sent jazz that PM, never !
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    I have got to drive to Tennessee someday just to buy a few rounds for BillVol!
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