KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – The new Market Street Social Club in Kingsport hopes to bring the city a spot with an atmosphere of live music and gathered conversation after the pandemic made such a place difficult to find.
Chancellor Lawson was born and raised in Kingsport, moving away every now and then, but always returning. This summer, he hopes to make a permanent mark on his hometown by opening Market Street Social Club.
He is a member of the local band, Donnie and the Dry Heavers, who had to do what they could to make ends meet during the pandemic.
“Being a part of the music scene for so long, I know a ton of awesome musicians that don’t play enough shows, and as a musician who’s spent plenty of time struggling to put groceries in the fridge, that’s why we’re here,” Lawson said. “We want to help not only make sure our musicians have a place to play, but they have something to take home with them. Don’t feed the musicians, give the musicians money to feed themselves.”
The “all-inclusive” new establishment will offer local craft beer and lots of music.
“Our schedule weekly is gonna look a lot like Monday, Tuesday, open mic nights, so you’ve got something to do early in the week. Come see some local artists. Wednesday and Sunday nights we’ll do vinyl nights where you bring your favorite record, we’ll spin your favorite record while we’re hanging out,” Lawson explained.
“Thursday, Friday and Saturday will be ticketed music events and comedy events. So we’ll have one to two comedy events a month and all of your favorite local artists in here Thursday, Friday, Saturday, doing full sets, craft beer, good music, it’s really what more could you ask for, you know?”
The craft beer will be pulled from local distributors, he said.
Robin Cleary of the Downtown Kingsport Association told News Channel 11 that the new place is going to bring so much more than just live music and good beer to the downtown community.
“What a business like this does is folks come to experience the live music, but when they’re downtown, they also get out and they see what else we have to offer,” Cleary said. “They’re out of their cars, feet on the street is the big thing for us. And they’re going to go and they’re going to visit our restaurants and our tap houses and distilleries and bars and pubs and shops and get a good idea of what all downtown Kingsport has to offer. So the more the better for everyone.”
Cleary said Downtown Kingsport might already have live entertainment venues, but Lawson’s idea is so different from the others and each is unique, which means they can play off each other.
“We have a venue like this open, and I think if you talk to any of the other entertainment venues downtown, they would tell you the same thing. It just all builds on what we already have and what we’re trying to continue to build that makes downtown Kingsport so unique,” she said.
She added that businesses continue to move to or start in Kingsport, despite the pandemic.
“During the height of the pandemic, we had 13 new businesses come to locate to downtown Kingsport and approximately 11 of those are still open and thriving,” she said.
In 2021, downtown Kingsport saw 22 new businesses open.
“We have seen a steady increase, haven’t seen anything tick down at all due to the pandemic, and I do feel like we are very, very much so getting close to the other side of that experience that we’ve all been through for the past two to three years,” Cleary said. “We have worked very hard to try to have some incentives in place and some new programs to make it easier for folks to come and locate in downtown Kingsport with a new business.”
One such opportunity is a loan program through the Northeast Tennessee Economic Development Partnership.
“Folks can come in, and if they’re looking to purchase a property and make an investment in downtown Kingsport or to open up and do leasing a property that is a great loan program, and it’s also open to our existing businesses as well,” Cleary said. “Downtown Kingsport and the city of Kingsport work very hard to make it a welcoming and friendly experience for folks that are wanting to and are willing to invest in our downtown community.”
For Lawson, though, he is just happy to get the music flowing through the streets of his hometown.
“[Market Street Social Club] came out of the wake of not having a lot to do post-pandemic, you know, lots of thinking, not a lot of acting. So when we saw this place open up, we couldn’t help but at least try to do something really cool with it,” he said.
The bar is set to open in mid-June at 107 East Market Street.