Swanks suspends operations

Swanks Jazz Restaurant and Bar is suspending operations.

Owner Allen Swank told Blount Today on Wednesday morning the business is temporarily closing.

“We are going to temporarily suspend operations after Friday,” he said. The restaurant recently had moved from six days a week to three, opening on Thursdays through Saturday after a drop off in business.

“More than anything else, it was people’s financial situation,” Swank said.

Swank said they tried making several changes to keep the business viable, including switching music from Jazz to rock to dance music, going non-smoking and then back to smoking.

About two months ago, Swank said he could tell times were difficult for customers. “We noticed people with credit cards and not cash. We were doing 25 percent cash sales, and now we’ve gone to 5 percent cash sales and people weren’t using debit cards, mostly credit cards.”

Swank said the restaurant was doing well until September when the fuel crisis pushed gas prices higher and higher. Servers were the first to see people were becoming more conservative in spending money. “People would order $25 in beer and leave zero tip,” he said.

The restaurant opened in May, and Swank said they made it 10 months. “There’s a point where you rethink your situation,” he said. “If we reopen as more of a bar, we might fare better,” he said.

“We definitely put our best foot forward. The sad part is we made a lot of really good friends. This has become a meeting place and not seeing them regularly will be odd,” he said.

Swank said he and his family are holding out hope they’ll reopen. “We’re looking at reopening as a nightclub or bar rather than a restaurant. That depends on logistics and permits,” he said. “We’re looking at a huge possibility of converting it, turning it into a good bar with additional partners and a new name and making it something that right off the bat is accessible to everyone.”

The restaurateur said what he has enjoyed most was meeting people and reinvigorating an old building. “The most gratifying part was the people I met, the good times we had and actually taking a building and rebuilding it into something that was just a thought in the back of your head,” he said. “Unfortunately we’re in one of the hardest business economies to open in.”

Swank said he’s keeping a positive attitude because of his faith in God. “If I didn’t have faith and grace, I wouldn’t be sitting here. Everything is in His hands,” he said.

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