The Hog Wild took on a life of its own as a status symbol for bad things in society. It was well known as a place frequented by those who inhabit the seedier side of life, and that was reflected in city police responding to the bar on more than 700 occasions over five years to handle 54 fights, 42 additional “disturbances,” 20 reports of reckless vehicles, and 12 thefts.
EMS calls to Hog Wild over the same period totaled 61 including 19 “accidents with injury” and 11 calls to treat “bruises and abrasions.” Paramedics were also called six times to deal with people who were unconscious.
Last year about this time, a 20-year-old Kingsport man was shot to death inside Hog Wild and another man wounded. Responding to those calls, police found numerous safety violations including water running into electrical fixtures, numerous leaks and ceiling damage, portable kerosene heaters and gasoline containers inside the building, and that the sprinkler system had been shut off.
The city ordered Hog Wild closed due to these violations, and the power and gas meters were shut down. It went to court, where a judge upheld the city’s demand that it be torn down.
Then came Engage Tri-Cities, which helps churches and businesses connect with the communities around them. The title to the building was donated to the organization, and founder Johnathon Anderson asked the city for time to develop a plan for renovating the structure for use as a job resource center for the homeless and low-income families. There’s no question of that need in Kingsport.
The city responded positively and gave Anderson until February to come up with a plan. But ultimately the cost of renovating the building was too high, coming in at more than $500,000 despite that much of the work and materials were being donated.
“Even if it didn’t cost our organization, it was going to cost someone, and we didn’t feel like that was wise,” Anderson said. “The city has been supportive. It’s not their fault or anyone’s. It just doesn’t make good business sense to move forward with the project in this manner.”
Anderson said the organization is debating whether to put a new building on the property or locate the job resource center elsewhere.
“Ideally, I wanted to renovate the building and possibly have the option to purchase the hotel and use it as housing for the homeless,” Anderson said. “We’ve had conversations with the hotel owners, and they are willing to sell. But we can’t come to an agreement on a number.”
Judging from comments to our stories on the building, the community wants the building torn down because, even renovated, it would continue to serve as a negative reminder of drinking and drugs and fights and even murder.
Sometimes, it’s best to clean house and start over. No one, it seems, will be sorry to see Hog Wild Saloon erased from our landscape.