It's three days before opening night and the melodic sounds of power tools and splintering wood can be heard emitting from behind the tinted glass windows of Scruffy City Hall, the highly anticipated, mysterious new presence on Market Square.
The latest brainchild in the ever-expanding family of Scott and Bernadette Wests' eclectic local businesses, Scruffy City aims to extend the Wests' zest for downtown revitalization further into the music scene.
But Knoxvillians shouldn't expect just another ho-hum venue, Scott West said.
"We decided a long time ago that we didn't want to have some concrete slab room where people only go because some band they want to see is playing," he said. "We made the decision that we were going to create amazing spaces with amazing ambiance and an unmatchable atmosphere."
The space was designed to fill a gap in the size of Knoxville's venues, said Bernadette West.
"It's mid-range, which is something downtown was in need of," she said. "Knoxville goes from small venues, like the Pilot Light, to large, like the Bijou or the Pub. This is mid-size and multi-use."
Far from a "concrete slab," the Wests have ensured there will be no shortage of unique architectural features and amenities within Scruffy City.
"We wanted to try a few things we've always wanted to, like we're creating a brewery, Scruffy City Brewery, that will be visible through a glass wall beneath the stage," Scott West said. "So you can actually see the fermenters brewing the beer below the stage."
As one would expect from the owners of Preservation Pub, the pair have striven to include a selection of libations not lacking in quality or variety.
"We'll have 40 beer tabs, which is an extremely wide variety," Scott West said. "We're oriented toward keeping Knoxville scruffy and the whole idea is to support local things, like we've always done, so we have a lot of regional beers."
West said they envisioned the space as a harkening to medieval drinking halls.
"It's like the middle ages-heathen Gothic meets Celtic," he said. "It's a really interesting space that's very spiritual. We have lots and lots of rod iron. We hired artists that sculpted dragons and crystal balls from iron, and there are candlelit-looking chandeliers that cast pools of light.
"We want it to look like the hall Beowulf would hang out in, or Thor."
Dark wood and slate floors, maroon velvet tapestries and curtains, and faux-stained glass depicting the Tree of Life and the four seasons complete a look so sumptuously thematic and inspired, its as though Willy Wonka ditched the candy business in favor of creating otherworldly bars.
"It's going to be very magical," Scott said.
Three balconies, including a second floor "loggia" with four tiers of repurposed church pews, overlook the venue's first floor and Market Square below. A 14-foot high-definition screen will air popular sporting events and special screenings of films and TV shows (a Game of Thrones theme party is in the works). But what Scott West is arguably most excited for is the rooftop portion of the bar, scheduled to open in April.
"The rooftop's going to have a 'crystal waterfall in the clouds' bar," he said. "We're going to build this magnificent, 50-foot amethyst and quartz fountain, with water coming out the top and a pool with lights undulating across it, right by the bar.
"There's nothing like this bar in the whole world."
As many grandiose touches as there may be, Bernadette West said she believes much of the bar's true appeal lies in its simple comforts.
"Its still very comfortable," she said. "That's important to me to have an intimate feel even if the ceiling is 25 feet tall. We'll have big tables for large groups. I'm all about socializing and interacting with friends."
Bernadette West has been working hands-on with the extensive renovations of the 1890-era building, which required an extensive overhaul in order to be transformed into the Wests' exceptional vision.
"I've been working on the construction every day," she said. "Renovating an old building takes a lot more effort than just building a new one from the ground up. We've repurposed a lot of the old wood by turning it into bar tops and benches, and we're putting the original tin ceiling in the loggia."
The Wests' painstaking care in preserving the building's original details is a reflection of their commitment to breathing life back into old things, one historic building at a time.
"We're trying very hard to protect Knoxville and keep it scruffy, which means support local music, support local art, support local culture, support local history," he said. "It's going to be one of the most amazing venues to either see music or enjoy a beer in the world, and certainly in downtown Knoxville."
Scruffy City Hall will first open to the public this Friday, with local hip-hop artist LiL iFFy performing his signature Harry Potter-themed repertoire. The venue, which is non-smoking, will become 21-and-up beginning at 9 p.m.