Jerry Summers: 4 Famous Beer Joints In Our Area

Thursday, June 24, 2021 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

To select only four of the many establishments that entertained the drinking and partying element in a 50-mile radius of Chattanooga prior to the first legalization of liquor by the drink would make them subjective choices out of many possibilities. 

Paul F. Gray Jr. got the first liquor by the drink license for an eating establishment in Chattanooga on January 1, 1973, when they allowed drinks in a place that served food that constituted a high percentage of their volume of business. This was at P.J.'s Supper Club on Lee Highway.

However, four stand out as the most prominent (or infamous) sites because of some particular unique characteristics.

The last bastion of male independence would have to be “Penney’s Place” in north Soddy Daisy on Dayton Pike which singularly was recognized by the “Men Only” painted signs on each windowpane (now removed) that claimed to have the “coldest beer in town.”  (Patrons of the now non-existent “Leonard’s” just through the Brainerd Tunnel would question that claim.)

Googling Penney’s Place under Reviews reveals a broad spectrum of opinions as to the political philosophy of the establishment.

Another famous watering hole would be the “Wagon Wheel” on Signal Mountain Boulevard which was a “beer, blood and guts” locale frequented by often non-law abiding citizens which bore the reputation that “you needed to bring two pistols with you when you entered the front door if you wanted to feel safe.”  It was a frequent site of shootings, cuttings, and homicides that often produced cases on the dockets of the criminal courts of Chattanooga and Hamilton County.  It likewise possessed a reputation for “cold beer” and the opportunity to possibly buy a half pint of bonded whiskey in secrecy.

Traveling upward into the Sequatchie Valley on Suck Creek Mountain one arrives at a concrete foundation which is all that remains of another beer joint known as “Cascades” that was often frequented by drivers of souped up Fords with Cadillac engines carrying either glass or plastic 1 gallon jugs or 5 gallon Grapette soda cans filled with alcoholic beverages that did not produce any tax revenue for the State of Tennessee or federal government.

If any of the transporters had to babysit their young children or use them as an excuse to get out of the house the basement of the establishment provided cots to put the youngsters to sleep while their dads frolicked upstairs.  The sounds of gunfire would sometimes be mistaken for fireworks on non-Fourth of July holidays.

The most upscale premise of the four historical locations named in this article would be “Fontaines” on the Old Birmingham (U.S.11) Highway outside the Tiftonia-Wauhatchie area of Hamilton County that provided live entertainment and the opportunity for members of the opposite sex to meet, congregate and possibly make plans to attend the church of their choice at a future date.  For the non-Baptists in the crowd a practice known as “brown bagging” was allowed and you could bring your own legal bottle and purchase a mixer to go with your beverage of choice.  Fontaines also would qualify as a “honky-tonk” because it also provided live music by a band for dancing.  Rumors exist that patrons would often include members of the upper crust of high Chattanooga society.

The 1989 movie “Roadhouse,” starring Patrick Swayze, Sam Elliott and Ben Gazarra portrays a similar dancing and drinking environment to Fontaines but the local roadhouse was less dangerous for the patrons.

Most younger individuals will not recognize the names or descriptive phrases of these “Fab Four” locales, but grandpa or grandma might be able to chuckle and confirm as “rumors” about what they have heard about some or all of the beer joints (and others) from a prior era!

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Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)

           

 

Penneys at Soddy Daisy
Penneys at Soddy Daisy

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