“West Asheville is really poppin',” says Hosea Jackson, owner of the Haywood Lounge Bar & Grill. "I've seen it change a lot, especially over the past five years.” An Asheville native, Jackson grew up in the Burton Street neighborhood and has watched the area evolve.
Jackson has been running businesses at 590 Haywood Road since 2000. Initially he operated an automobile rim shop, then a beauty salon-and-supply store, and most recently, the Haywood Lounge.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, African Americans make up 6.5 percent of the population in Buncombe County, but own just 1.7 percent of the businesses in the county. The Haywood Lounge is one of them.
With its understated façade and its bar tucked in the back of the building, “A lot of people don't know what's going on in here,” Jackson acknowledges. “Maybe because we need more signage. They may know about the wings because of our neon ‘wings’ sign, but they don't know it's a full bar.”
Open six days a week, the Haywood Lounge operates as a private club with full ABC permits, and membership is required to order alcohol. A membership can be acquired for a nominal fee on the first visit. Rather than following Asheville’s craft-cocktail trend, the Lounge offers solid mixed drinks at very affordable prices. While you won’t find a long menu of fancy concoctions at the Haywood Lounge, Jackson suggests asking for the “Now & Later.” “You sip it now, and feel it later,” he says, laughing.
In addition to the bar, the Haywood Lounge offers a food menu that includes wings, burgers, pork chops, chicken tenders, grilled chicken breast and Nathan’s all-beef hot dogs. Sides include fries, corn nuggets, okra, onion rings and green beans.
Wings, served with house-made ranch dressing, celery, fries and a roll, are by far the Lounge’s most popular item. “We keep them tasting right every time,” says Jackson. “I make wings exactly how folks want them.” He has created his own sauces — variations on popular recipes, including barbecue, lemon pepper, hot, mild, teriyaki and sweet-and-spicy.
Of all these flavors, the lemon-pepper ones “are our signature wings,” Jackson says. He and his brother, Percival Ligon, do all of the cooking. The flavorful wings have inspired loyal, repeat customers who send their friends to the Haywood Lounge. “Word of mouth has been keeping this business going,” says Jackson.
While you have to be a member to dine in, there’s no such requirement for take out. The kitchen opens at 10 a.m., Monday through Saturday. It stays open until midnight Mondays through Wednesdays, and until 2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, providing a late-night food option.
A musician himself, Jackson hosts DJs on a regular basis in the evenings, with a focus on hip-hop. “I definitely love music,“ he explains. “Having a venue gives me the opportunity to expose my music to the community, and to give other people the opportunity to play their music.“ Jackson opened the club in part because he “wanted to have a place where people can come and network, and to listen underground artists.” In addition to DJs, the Haywood Lounge occasionally hosts events with live bands. The next such event will be on Halloween, Thursday, Oct. 31. As with any good Halloween party, there will be drink specials and a costume contest.
Despite the growth that has happened around him in West Asheville, Jackson says, “Most of my customers come from outside of West Asheville. The African-American community gives me a lot of support because I know a lot of people.” But he suggests a “little more support” from his local neighbors. Says Jackson, “I'm the only club they haven't tried.”
If you do try it, expect a relaxed atmosphere and a smile. As Jackson puts it, “We welcome everyone.”