Thursday, October 21, 2021

As small businesses struggle, new restaurant offers hope in Knoxville

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Small businesses have no doubt struggled during this pandemic, but now a new restaurant opening in downtown Knoxville is offering a glimmer of hope.

Jim and Lori Klonaris opened Vida, a Pan-Latin restaurant in the Holston Bank building on Gay Street, one floor below is their cocktail-lounge The Vault.

It’s a project that the Klonaris Family wasn’t sure was going to happen.

“We were able to secure this building in January of 2020… then we hear about this thing COVID-19, we are sitting here thinking, now what do we do? We either stop the whole project and figure out how to pay a large monthly note with no income coming in or proceed with the plan which is what you see today.”

But, paying the bills wasn’t the only challenge the couple was facing. “My wife got diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer, it was aggressive. We were able to have surgery in February, radiation in March, and deal with all of that. My wife Lori, is the CEO of the company, she’s the driver and operator, she was having to make really difficult decisions dealing with personal challenges the whole time.”

Lori is now cancer-free.

When it came to the inspiration for the new restaurant, Klonaris said they wanted to give customers a big city feel. “Knoxville is known as the Scruffy City, but Lori and I believe not everything has to be scruffy.”

Pan-Latin restaurant opens in downtown Knoxville(WVLT)

The couple also runs Cafe 4 and Kefi restaurants, each with their own feel and vibe, they wanted both the Vida and The Vault to have their own identities too.

Inside the restaurant, a 100-year-old marble staircase takes you to The Vault, a swanky cocktail lounge. “We wanted them to be separate,” said Klonaris. The building dates back to 1903. “We tried to keep as much of the original features of the building as we could,” said Jim Klonaris pointing to the original vault door that was inside the Holston Bank, with a created date of 1892. The door was made before the bank opened.

100-year-old marble encased staircase connects Vida and The Vault.
100-year-old marble encased staircase connects Vida and The Vault.(WVLT)

Klonaris said they’ve changed their business model to do more with less and still offer a service to the community, all while following COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines.

“It’s there we just try to put our head down and move forward.”

Copyright 2021 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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