Originally built in the last 1890s, the building that now houses The Southside Saloon has held many other businesses, such as a bottling company, a Mexican restaurant and then The Red Lantern. Staff photo.
Chattanooga business owner Shane Hendrix recently purchased the restaurant formerly known as The Red Lantern and found out the building has a long, unique history.
“My understanding was that it was originally built as a saloon and bordello,” Southside Saloon owner Hendrix said.
Originally built in the last 1890s, the building has held many other businesses, such as a bottling company, a Mexican restaurant and then The Red Lantern.
Upstairs there are still several small rooms that were used when the business was a brothel.
The last two owners changed the business to its current name and Hendrix kept that name when he bought the space about six months ago, although still considers changing it.
“We decided to keep the name, only because we couldn’t think of another one,” he said. “We thought about changing it back to The Red Lantern, but there was a lot of negative stuff that went with that.”
The old building, which is located at 1301 Chestnut Street, is thought to be haunted and Hendrix is in talks with the leaders of a Chattanooga ghost tour who may make the business the last stop on the tour.
Hendrix said there are supposedly three ghosts, one of whom employee Darlene Wallace has named George.
“He’s a big man with white hair and a white beard,” Wallace said.
Although Wallace is the only one who has actually seen him, other employees said they have seen evidence of him.
Hendrix said there was an unusual instance when a clock fell off the wall and into a trash can without disturbing any of the items below.
“I have no idea how the stuff in front of it didn’t move,” he said.
Wallace said George likes to swing the pots and that he threw a pot across the room.
“He’s a prankster,” she said.
But after about a month, Hendrix said business is good for the most part.
“We’ve got to find a way to get the evening crowd up,” he said.
The night schedule includes karaoke on Wednesday nights and live music other nights, and Hendrix said he is willing to give good deals so he can get the word out about the business.
Some people at other businesses who are next door said they didn’t realize what was in the big, red, brick building.
“Even the bands aren’t driving it,” he said. “It’s coming up fall and we’ve got TV, we’ve got football, so maybe it will be a little different in the fall, but I’m willing to just about give it away to get people in the door.”
He is working on deals such as 50 cent drafts and other discounts to draw crowds.
Hendrix also made the difficult decision to make the restaurant non-smoking.
“This was TVA’s smoking cafeteria,” he said. “It was a big decision but there is evidence in here right now (that it was right). There are children. We couldn’t have anyone under 21 ever. We were turning a lot of people away from the convention center."