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Downtown Chattanooga restaurant to be featured on cable food channel

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The Pickle Barrel Bar & Grill closed for a few days in January after near sub zero temperatures caused a roof collapse in the downtown restaurant. Employees pitched in to help clean up the mess caused by a frozen sprinkler system and a construction crew finished the job.
But ceiling repairs had nothing to do with a short closure from 6 p.m. from Feb. 9 until 7 p.m. Feb. 11 as customers found out when they visited the Market Street eatery on Tuesday. Customers were met with confidentially contracts and documents asking to approve the release of their images for an as yet unnamed use before they could enter the business.
A truck from New Jersey-based Two Rivers Pictures parked behind the restaurant, located in one of three triangular shaped buildings in the downtown area.
Owner Nick Bowers stood outside with a handful of people.
“I can’t say anything,” Bowers, who with a partner opened the restaurant more than 30 years ago, said. “I could be fined $750,000 if I violate my agreement.”
Information gathered over several days suggests that the company was here filming a segment for a "Belly Up!" to air on the Cooking Channel. The company made some renovations and added some new menu items.
Inside camera crews followed Bowers and son Ben Bowers and daughter Daisy Bowers as well as servers clad in plaid shirts adorned with embroidered nametags. Bright lights flooded every dark corner of the normally dark restaurant and smoking was forbidden for the night.
The picture company made some renovations the restaurant in the building owned by Chattanooga attorney Arvin Rhinegold. The building is the third triangle shaped building starting with the Flat Iron Building on Cherry Street between Seventh Street and Georgia Avenue
Some of the touches included new chandeliers shaped like barrels with wooden staves and metal bands. A wooden arrow with flashing lights pointed to the upstairs that leads to the rooftop patio open in fair weather. Other subtle changes, such as arm level shelves lining the windows along the bar and clearing the clutter near the coffee machines added charm and feeling of newness without undermining the original décor and homey feeling of the place where, “everybody knows your name.”*
Tuesday’s menu had only three sandwiches and a desert, homemade pickle flavored ice cream the only changes in offerings that have not changed radically in the more than three decades the restaurant has served soups, salads, deli sandwiches and dinner items.
On the restaurant’s Facebook page fans rave about favorites such as the Immigrant or the Rueben.
Bowers opened the Pickle Barrel after he was laid off from his job as an air traffic controller in the 1980s. His mistake, he said, he believed President Ronald Reagan, who told the controllers he would support them if they went on strike. They did and he didn’t.
Most restaurants tend to have a shorter shelf life than many other types of businesses, according to restaurant industry research. Independently owned restaurants are more apt to fail than chain or franchise businesses with most closing their doors in the first year, according to a report in ArizonaCentral.com. Of those survivors 70 percent don’t make it past the next three to five years, according to http://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/average-life-span-restaurant-6024.html.
Fans attribute the Pickle Barrel’s longevity to its customer and employee loyalty. Over the years the tiny diner, once home to the Yellow Deli, a group considered a religious cult that moved from Chattanooga to avoid what it considered persecution, the Pickle has become a home for its employees and customers who remained faithful. In the early 1980s the regular crowd called it The PB; the 1990 habitués called it the Barrel. Today the young servers and regulars have dubbed it “The Pickle.”
In addition to the family, Bowers has employed generations of servers and bartenders.
Twenty-eight-year-old Rachael Summers has worked at the Barrel while in school and between other jobs, following in both her mother’s and father’s footsteps. Other regulars who may stay away from years only to return after a catastrophic life event or simply because they just want to connect with someone.
Overheard in discussion was the suggestion that the show featuring the Pickle Barrel may air sometime in June.

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