First look: World's longest (and most unexpected) bar set to open in Middle Tennessee
- World's longest bar is 518 feet long with 202 barstools.
- Venue at Nearest Green Distillery will bring elevated food, cocktails and live music to Shelbyville.
When Keith and Fawn Weaver, owners at Nearest Green Distillery in Shelbyville, set their minds on something, they always shoot for a best-in-class experience. So when the couple decided to open a restaurant/bar/live music venue at the distillery, they went all out and ended up with something unexpected — especially in Bedford County.
Customers might expect bar food, like potato skins and nachos.
What they will get are chef-driven entrees such as creamy burrata with prosciutto, grilled peaches, arugula, micro basil and a balsamic reduction.
They might expect whiskey, but they'll be able to drink curated cocktails like the Queens Gambit made with Uncle Nearest 1856, pineapple gomme, lemon juice, Sorel and Hella apple blossom bitters.
And then, there's the performance space.
Weaver said he designed something good enough for Garth Brooks in hopes that Garth would one day play there. He hired the team that engineered Paisley Park for Prince to ensure the space would sound just as good.
The result is Humble Baron, which in addition to bringing world class cocktails and a culinary experience to Shelbyville, is also now the home of the world's longest bar. It comes in at 518 feet long with 202 barstools and surpasses the previous world record (held by an Ohio establishment) by more than 100 linear feet.
But to Weaver, it's not as much about setting the record as it is having room for everyone.
"Everything about this bar design is connected to all people having a seat at the table – or the bar," Weaver told The Tennessean. "The shape of it and the way the menu is crafted are in service to that objective. Yes, it’s the longest bar in the world, yes everyone has a seat at the table, but it’s really about excellence exemplified across multiple planes."
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'Michelin star for bar food'
The Weavers realized early on the distillery should offer a food and beverage component, but even though there wasn't a lot of competition in the area, they wanted it to be anything but ordinary.
"We're in a little bit of a food and beverage desert here," Weaver said. "We thought through when people come here to the distillery, what are the other offerings besides the distillery tour and retail experience? What else will people do? So we thought about a food and beverage component and the bar."
When Weaver started to conceptualize what the Humble Baron menu would taste like, he worked with longtime friend and chef Gerry Garvin and told him he didn't want the food to be basic.
"I wanted the food to be pretty incredible," he said. "I said to G. Garvin, 'imagine it like you are getting a Michelin star for bar food — that isn't pretentious.' I wanted the menu offering to be pretty diverse as well and wanted everything on the menu to be a hit. I wanted no duds on the menu."
Once the menu was conceived, Garvin identified and hired Executive Chef Jay Craddick to make it come to life.
Award-winning beverage program
The bar program, based on Uncle Nearest's own brand of award-winning whiskey, also had to be perfect.
The Weavers hired DeAndre A. Jackson from the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles to be the assistant director of beverage. How'd they connect? Just so happens Jackson won the "2021 Uncle Nearest Honor Your Legacy” cocktail competition with his drink Moonwalking in Calabasas, which takes Uncle Nearest 1856 whiskey and adds to it some averna, lemon oleo, egg whites, rhubarb bitters and ango hearts garnish.
"We wanted someone executing at this level to lead this bar," Weaver said. He and his wife also worked with Gin & Luck Hospitality to ensure the cocktail program was on point.
But in addition to having an elevated food and beverage experience, Weaver said he also wanted it to be accessible.
"Even though this could fit with a New York, L.A. or London, if you drive a skid steer on a farm, you still will feel like you have a seat at the table, which is part of the point. I can't wait to see the diversity here around this bar. I think that’s going to be fun to watch," he noted.
'This place was built for Garth Brooks'
Having a live music element was also always part of the Weavers' plan for this expansion. In addition to a massive stage complete with state-of-the-art sound and lighting and a high-definition video wall, the stage can face indoors or outdoors, which Weaver says could conceivably accommodate 10,000 people on the lawn.
"This place was built for Garth Brooks," Weaver said. "I'm just putting that out there. We don't know him, but we have been to a million Garth Brooks shows. We thought if we could build it for him, then maybe he will come."
But the attention to detail doesn't stop with the crowd-facing elements. Weaver said although he's been in the entertainment business for 21 years, he's never seen nicer green rooms, which were designed with the artists' experience in mind.
"We wanted to think about the artists and thinking about their experience here made it pretty special," he said. "One of the smaller artist rooms is named after my father-in-law, Frank Wilson, who was a very accomplished Motown artist and an underrated hero in my mind."
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Senior executive or whiskey baron?
The name Humble Baron came out of a conversation between Keith and Fawn as the couple got increasingly busier at the distillery. In addition to co-founding Nearest Green Distillery, Keith Weaver is also the executive vice president, global policy and external affairs at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
"I’ve been a senior executive for a long time," he said. "But when I’d fly back here, I’d take a redeye, come straight to work and when I’d get to the distillery, I’d be picking weeds, hauling trash, taking direction from folks, and I told Fawn jokingly, 'Aren’t I a whiskey baron now? (which is a huge joke because anyone starting out knows it’s not as glamorous as what people think.)'"
"Um, no dear, but you are a humble baron."
Humble Baron officially opens on March 23 and plenty of grand opening events are in the works. Hours will be 5-11 p.m. on Fridays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit HumbleBaron.com.
Melonee Hurt covers growth and development at The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network — Tennessee. Reach Melonee at firstname.lastname@example.org.