City Dedicates Regas Square

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
kfarley@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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City Dedicates Regas Square

Posted: 01/10/2008
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, members of City Council, and numerous friends and supporters gathered at Regas Restaurant to officially dedicate Regas Square.

Regas Square is bounded by Gay Street, Magnolia Avenue, Williams Street and Depot and encompasses the city block where the historic restaurant is located.

Bill and Gus Regas, sons of the restaurant's two founders, and other family members were on hand for the occasion.

"Regas is Knoxville's most award-winning restaurant and it is the oldest restaurant in Tennessee," Mayor Bill Haslam said before unveiling one of the signs that will designate Regas Square. "It is one of the many things that puts Knoxville and our downtown on the map. We are very proud of Regas Restaurant and the Regas family."

Frank and George Regas, immigrants from Patras, Greece, founded Regas Restaurant in 1919. It began as a 24-hour stool and counter establishment and changed over the years to an elegant white-tablecloth restaurant where Knoxville leaders today conduct business over lunch and families from throughout East Tennessee celebrate special occasions.

During its 88-year history, Regas has employed thousands of Knoxvillians, many of whom have gone on to very successful careers in the restaurant business and other industries, Bill Regas said.

"So many people have learned their work ethic working at Regas," Bill Regas said. "Many started their careers here and have gone on to become leaders of our community."

One of Regas' most famous alumni is Dave Thomas, the late founder and CEO of Wendy's who worked with Bill Regas as a counter server at Regas many years ago.

Prominent Knoxvillians Wayne Ritchie, a well-known lawyer, and Joe Ayres, president of Cumberland Securities, worked there.

Lynn Duncan, the wife of Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr., worked as a waitress at Regas and it was there that she met her future husband.

Many say that the history of Regas is also the history of Knoxville and America in the 20th century. When it was founded as the Astor Café and later as Regas Brothers Café, it was located in the Watauga Hotel on the corner of Gay Street and Magnolia Avenue.

In those days, downtown Knoxville was bustling with activity. Streetcars and trains were common modes of transportation and Regas benefited from the location of the Southern Railway station across the street and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad station nearby.

The restaurant catered to railroad employees and travelers and only closed on Christmas Eve.
As downtown Knoxville became a shopping and business hub, Regas catered to downtown office workers, store employees and shoppers. And its menu evolved.

Today, Regas is known for its prime rib steaks, New Zealand lobster, clam chowder, red velvet cake and crisp green salads, tossed at the table and served on chilled pewter plates.

In 2001, Connor Concepts partnered with Regas to help preserve this Knoxville landmark. And today, Regas continues its award-winning tradition of preparing American cuisine at its best.