Beer lovers should be able to duck into a new tap room in St. Elmo for a pint on April 1 — and that's no April Fool's joke.
That's the soft opening date for the Tap House, a new business at 3800 St. Elmo Ave., that's been a longtime dream for Chris Calhoun.
He's a Chattanooga native who in 1991 belonged to the first graduating class of the Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences, a magnet K-12 public school. Calhoun joined the U.S. Marines shortly after graduating, and he served for 20 years before retiring.
He's held several jobs since then, including distributing beer for Molo Tenn Distributors, arranging rail car shipments for Coyote Logistics and being a security officer for Murray Guard Security.
But Calhoun jumped at the chance when first-floor space became available in a blocky, three-story, brick building just north of the popular 1885 Grill in the heart of St. Elmo.
He signed a five-year lease and has spent about $50,000 he had saved up to outfit the space with Edison bulb light fixtures, metal chairs and tables made with metal pipe and reclaimed wood.
Calhoun said he's tried 2,000 beers around the world. While Calhoun appreciates good beer, he's not a snob and plans to save space among this 30 taps for Guinness and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
"Guinness is a staple around the world," Calhoun said. "Certainly, we can have PBR."
Calhoun has a number of ideas for the Tap House, which seats 25 outside and about 70 inside and should open full-time on April 8.
He may host a trivia night. Calhoun thinks he'll get business from Lookout Mountain residents who'll stop by to fill growlers on the way home. And he plans to show soccer games on TV, since he's had soccer fans ask for that.
The Tap Room will offer such food as hummus, meat and cheese, nuts — and Calhoun hopes to get a special pizza made by Mr. T's Pizza & Ice Cream across the street, which would deliver.
"The food is simple food," Calhoun said. "I don't want to be a restaurant."
Calhoun also plans to put local microbreweries' beer on tap.
The new tap room was heralded by Michael Dial, who — with his wife, Mandy Dial, and brother Chris Dial — plan to open WanderLinger Brewing Co. on the first floor of what's now a multi-story brick storage building at 1208 King St.
"It's great. You've got more tap rooms, more bars," Dial said, "I think it's all good stuff. It's just helping to elevate the beer scene."
Calhoun has even been talking with a home brewers group about offering their members' beer.
"We can't sell [homebrew], but we could let people sample," he said.
Calhoun also plans to have tastings at a horseshoe-shaped table near the bar, including some hosted by beer cicerones. A cicerone (pronounced sis-uh-rohn) is someone who's as knowledgeable about beer as a sommelier is about wine.
Chattanooga has other craft beer tap rooms. But Calhoun said, "If you visit St. Elmo on this side of the interstate, there is nothing like this over here."