How did The Rampant Lion come into being? (A short interview with the owner, Brian Papworth)
Let me go back a little bit. I’m going to go down the rabbit hole. In the beginning, my photographic gallery was on the right-hand side of my house and I needed a bigger studio, darkroom, lab, studio, and gallery, rather. Do I begin designing what would become the Fox & Parrot Tavern building to be a one-story building with a little bit of a walk-up.
When we started digging into it and actually shot the grade with a laser level and everything else, the builder said, “ with the slope of the hill is so severe that you’re going to end up with the two-story building. I said, what? Yeah, it cost you the same as a one-story building. So we’ll then build a two-story building.” So what are you going to do with the second story?
I’m going to open a pub!
So I open up the Fox & Parrot, go through the doors. It takes over my life, Ten years later, I’m running the tavern. I met Dana, the love of my life. We end up getting married, and she says, Brian, I don’t drink beer.
I can’t serve my liquor. She thinks for a moment, Brian we have this other property over here we can renovate and make a wine bar.
So we do that. And the wine bar, the wine bar is doing really, really, well because nobody else in the Smoky mountains was doing anything like it. We opened in the Wine bar in 2012 and we didn’t carry liquor, we had beer and wine.
So after that, the fires of 2016, 2017 & 2018 business was really down. Anyway, so, so after the fires, we were kind of spinning our wheels because of the menus, they were completely different. There was nothing at the same, either restaurant and the diversity was killing me. The prices at the time to prepare Topas were killing us, absolutely gouging us. We had a lot of specialty cheeses and some of them were over $19 a pound and if you don’t have the turnover you throw a bunch of it out.
Dana, my wife turned to me and said, Do you want to turn The Rampant Lion Wine & Tapas Bar into a pub? I asked her, are you serious? She said, Yes! We can’t maintain this, the expenditure of running such a unique restaurant. I said let’s do it, let’s turn the wine bar into a pub! Dana then asked, should we move the Fox & Parrot down here.
I said I’ll open up a separate pub, since we are now in the city limits of Gatlinburg vs the county, I can get the liquor license. Dana then asked, how many whiskeys are you going to carry? I think ten should be enough came out. That was in the beginning, Now The Rampant Lion has over 180 brands of Whiskey.
The Rampant Lion offers Bourbon, Irish, Scottish, Japanese, Australian, Welsh, and Canadian Whiskey
Okay, my story personally is that three of my grandparents, my mother were born in the south prior to when my mother was born. So not quite prior to the depression, they all had to move north in the late thirties to find work in the Detroit area.
My dad’s family came over from Newcastle England in 1908, lived in Cleveland for a while where my dad was born in 1922, then because of the depression, again moved further north to Detroit. Both sides of the family met up. My grandfather from England had married my grandmother from Savannah, Georgia. I was born in 62. Growing up, all I ever heard was you got to get back to the South, get you back.
So they didn’t want to be there, their lives were like today’s immigrants. They were working here sending money back to the family in Europe. My family did that, a lot of people in this area did that. One of Dana’s grandparents moved to Detroit to find work so he could send money back home to the family.
My parents came to Gatlinburg on their honeymoon in 1957 bought property out towards Cosby in 72 when I was ten. I didn’t want to raise my kids in Detroit, I didn’t want to live in the North. I love being here, I love living here.
I’d like to spend more time in the winters and somewhere else
What is your probably greatest compliment any guest has ever said to you
the compliments we get from our American visitors or who we assume are American visitors are absolutely wonderful, I mean, it makes my day.
But, when you get people in from England that have lived in England their entire lives and they say this is the best fish and chips I’ve ever had in my life, and somebody did it yesterday Yeah. And they put it on Google reviews, that is the greatest compliment you can get.