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The news spread faster than a drunken two-step: That longtime Black Mountain institution the Town Pump tavern was for sale. What would happen to the historic bar and community gathering spot?

Town Pump changing hands: It seems fitting that the Xpress file photo of the decades-old tavern was undated and sepia-toned.

“Maybe it’ll get cleaned,” mused one local musician who frequented the place. Some speculated that the tavern, often clouded with thick cigarette smoke by night’s end, might indeed be held together by nicotine. And what would become of the dozens of crumpled dollar bills tacked to the ceiling?

“We want to keep it basically the same,” said soon-to-be-new owner Julie Davis. Davis, along with her brother Steve McMahan and his fiancee Kathleen Ausley, are scheduled to close the deal March 6. “The Town Pump has been there for 26 years—we want to keep the same energy.”

Davis said they’re thrilled to take over the tavern, which occupies a 1905 building that was once the Black Mountain post office.

It’s also, according to some locals, the center of the universe. “There is a certificate to verify this behind the bar,” tavern regular Bert Brown told Xpress.

“The Pump is one of the few authentic honky-tonk bars left,” observed Don Talley, creator of www.blackmountainmusicscene.com. Also, he notes, “There’s a real community of folks; like any community some come and go, some have their spats and disagreements … but the Pump has remained a steadying influence and place for hanging out for many.”

Davis and McMahan will close the place for a week or two to spiff it up. They plan to give it a thorough cleaning (“We’re bringing a crew—cashing in on a lot of favors from friends,” Davis jokes), replace the beer lines, build a new stage and install new smoke-eaters.

Ausley, a jazz singer, will book the same types of music the Pump has always had, Davis said. Davis has been frequenting the place since moving to Asheville 14 years ago (she’s a Waynesville native). They might add more zydeco music, more country music—but they’re keeping the jukebox (with its trademark “Town Pump Stomp” by the Juggernaut Jug Band) and the acoustic jam night.

The new owners plan to keep the memorabilia that made the place authentic, and add some of their own.

Meantime, it’s welcome news to hear the Pump will carry on.

Writes Jonas Cole of the band Wayne Robbins and the Hellsayers: “That place has the gift of making you feel like you and whoever else is in there are the only people in the world for awhile.”

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