Tiger Mountain, a popular Asheville locals’ bar, has closed the doors to its 103 Broadway location and will open just around the corner at 112 N. Lexington Ave. (formerly Emerald Lounge). Owner Sean Bickford is optimistic that the new location will be open to the public by next Friday, Aug. 15.
One of Bickford’s primary goals during the transition is to maintain the original Tiger Mountain atmosphere, which he describes as “a place that’s comfortable for people to just come in and drink and not be distracted with TVs or even bar games.” Bickford says this vibe is popular among locals, professionals and drinkers, and he values the type of customer Tiger Mountain attracts. “I wouldn’t say it’s an older crowd, but it’s definitely a little more sophisticated than crowds at a lot of the other places in town.”
The new location’s facelift will include replacing Emerald Lounge seating with Tiger Mountain’s booths (originally from Dollywood) and transferring art from the old location. Bickford also has some “new, weird stuff” for the walls.
The move around the block will increase Tiger Mountain’s capacity from 46 patrons to 208 – a boost that may be needed since the new location enjoys a heftier stream of pedestrians. “Being on the other side of the block is a much bigger deal than I thought it was going to be,” remarks Bickford. “There is so much more foot traffic.”
Even before the move, Tiger Mountain reached capacity three or four times per week. The sizable floor plan will prevent the owners from turning away customers, and will also come in handy for hosting DJs and dance parties.
But increased visibility may come at a cost, which Bickford hopes won’t include a degradation of his core clientele. “It’s a lot more vibrant on the other side, which is good and bad. It was nice being off the beaten path a little bit at the old spot because the only people that were there were intentionally there. We’ll have a lot more walk-ins, but I think our crowd is pretty self-regulating. I think we’ll still maintain the same quality of customer.”
Since beer storage space has quadrupled, Tiger Mountain will expand their selection of on-tap beers from four to 10 options – a move unlikely to cause controversy among locals. Tiger Mountain will keep running cheap drink specials, like their $5 beer-and-shot combo, and will also seek out innovative beverages for the menu.
Bickford agreed that last Saturday night — the last night at the Broadway location — was bittersweet, but found the vibe to be very positive and supportive. He knew for sure the farewell night was a success by the next morning: “People had a little too much fun I think. I got a lot of messages from people blaming me for hangovers.”
Judging by Bickford’s remarks, the Tiger Mountain transition seems to be moving along more effortlessly than the bar’s patrons did on Sunday morning. “This has been – I’m knocking on wood as I say this – the smoothest operation I’ve ever had.”