As we enter a new year, I always get a little sentimental about people I haven’t seen in a long time, or places that no longer exist but are still very much alive somewhere in this brain of mine. As with most cities, back in the 80’s and 90’s Nashville had a vibrant nightclub scene, from disco to oldies to country, and you could hit all the genres in one evening. Most of these clubs were on the south side of town, near the airport so making the trek wasn’t impossible if one wanted to try.
There was, though, one place where all the people gathered before hitting those respective clubs. You’d see flashy outfits, cowboy hats, boots, three-piece suits and on and on and on. This place welcomed all and the unofficial phrase was, “Everyone will be there.” And everyone was. If you were under 21, good luck, because they made sure you had a real I.D., not a fake one, ahem, that someone bought in Panama City.
I am talking about hitting happy hour at a long ago place called Bennigan’s. Located on Murfreesboro road, it was easily accessible because it was close to the interstate and also, so many people back then lived on that side of town. No one went downtown. There wasn’t much at that time for people to do in Cool Springs or Brentwood. Sure, there were a few other spots people ventured to but Bennigan’s usually dominated the conversation.
St. Patrick’s Day there was on another level as well. They would block off this massive parking lot and it was one of the best events all year long. People drove from all over to come and then wait in line a long time just to get in. Happy hour was the time that put the Bennigan’s on Murfreesboro road on the map. Monday through Friday, it was packed and usually carried into the evening hours. Even on a Monday, there would be a crowd there until 8 or 9 at night.
It was the place to make deals, meet other people and just forget your worries and office problems in one afternoon. Yes, if Tinder was a bar, it would have been Bennigan’s but on a really cool level. Old, young, black, white, it didn’t matter, everyone had a great time. I don’t remember any fights happening there, just everyone having a great time and then heading out for the evening.
I thought about Bennigan’s because I was coming back from Murfreesboro and a wreck on the interstate and so I went down Murfreesboro road to get home. I drove by the old building and turned around and drove back again. The building is long gone, like most things around Nashville, but that big parking lot was still there. Some business occupied it now but in my memory, all I saw was a building, full of people laughing, not arguing about politics, and enjoying life.
As a kid, I remember my mom pointing out places that she remembered fondly that now had a car wash or a gas station on the property. I would wonder how a place, that was long gone, could hold so many memories.
Now I know.