Some downtown Knoxville businesses are experiencing record highs, while others are experiencing record lows. Chef Jeffrey DeAlejandro owns one of each.
HenHoc butcher shop in the Old City has closed its doors, with DeAlejandro citing more people willing to dine out during this phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and fewer people needing freshly cut meat to cook at home.
On the other hand, DeAlejandro told Knox News, his OliBea restaurant is experiencing some of its best business on record. But that doesn’t make losing HenHoc much easier.
“At the end of the day, it was definitely a passion project,” he said about the butcher shop. “I’ve always wanted to do it. It was something I wanted to do before OliBea.”
Sunday was the last day in business for the butcher shop, located at 123 S. Central St.
HenHoc is just the latest in a recent string of downtown restaurants announcing their closures. Po’ Richard’s also had its last day in business Sunday, marking the first food hall vendor to leave Marble City Market, while Wicked Chicken has closed to make room for a downtown Harvest location on Gay Street.
DeAlejandro said HenHoc’s downward trend started about five months back, with twice-a-week customers beginning to come in just once.
But the past two years in business has taught DeAlejandro a lot — and so has the past week, he said, as ideas have been “swirling” in his mind about what to do next with the space.
DeAlejandro said he has a longterm lease and hopes to have something new in the space next month. It could be a new dining concept, a pop-up or a partnership with another business.
“Right now, I’m unsure what the next step is,” he said. “There’s some really cool ideas I’ve been thinking about. … We’re just thankful for our sweet little Old City and downtown and Knoxville for supporting us.”
The butcher shop was located just next door to the original location of OliBea, which moved to 211 S. Central St. in February 2020.
The former OliBea location is undergoing renovations to become Alchemy, a lounge and cigar bar at 119 S. Central St.
Ryan Wilusz: Knoxville’s downtown explorer and urban reporter
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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: OliBea owner closes Old City butcher shop HenHoc in downtown Knoxville