Fran's East Side

Fran’s East Side, the beloved East Nashville dive bar and karaoke destination, is losing its lease and scrambling to find a new location. A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help Frances Adams, its 70-something proprietress, keep the beer flowing while she finds a new location.

“We often say, 'This is one of the last remaining fill-in-the-blanks in Nashville,' but this truly is one of the last true dive bars in Nashville," says Chris Thompson, a longtime regular at Fran’s. "It would be a shame to lose it." Thompson is so well-acquainted with neighborhood watering holes he was once dubbed "the Mayor of East Nashville" in the Scene's Best of Nashville issue.

With a goal of raising $50,000, the GoFundMe campaign would help Adams stay open and pay rent month to month while finding and leasing a new location, completing renovations, securing permits and moving.

Gowa, the master of Fran’s legendary karaoke program and the bar’s promoter (who prefers to use only her first name), is helping Adams with her relocation efforts and posted about the efforts on her Instagram account on Thursday. Adams has run more than a dozen bars in Nashville over the course of more than 50 years. She has already relocated Fran’s East Side once. It moved to its current location at 2105 Greenwood Ave. in March 2008. Before that, East Side (as it is still technically officially called) was located on Gallatin Avenue (where the Cobra is today). Gowa, Thompson and others say the magic of Fran’s East Side is not its physical space, but its community.

In addition to the karaoke, Fran's East Side is known for its friendly bartenders, eclectic crowd, pool tables, cheap beer and a large cat tapestry that hangs on the wall.

“Fran’s is a melting pot," says Gowa. "It is a place where everyone feels at home. Everyone is equal. Veterans, blue-collar workers, mixed in with hipsters, millennials and good-timers. And the karaoke is part of the magic.”

Gowa is planning to open a coffee shop called Neon Moon, and has been looking for places where she could split the rent with Fran’s — either next door or in a daytime/nighttime scenario similar to Wedgewood-Houston’s Falcon & Flamingo. Fran’s East Side is committed to staying on the East Side, as opposed to moving to Madison, Old Hickory or somewhere less expensive, because many of the regulars are longtime residents of the neighborhood and Adams wants them to be able to be nearby.

On the GoFundMe page Adams explains the situation: “Our landlord is forcing us to move. I’ve been here thirteen years, taking care of the property and doing all the repairs on the building. He doesn’t want to renew the lease after he led us to believe he was going to renew it. We have tried everything. We offered more than a fair share to stay and continue to rent the building but he doesn’t want to accept our offer. It’s not fair to someone who has taken care of the lot and the building, to choose not to renew the lease.”

Davidson County records list Antonio Dunlap as the property owner for the Fran’s storefront, plus its adjacent vacant storefront, since 2003. Gowa says she had been interested in the adjacent vacant space for her project. According to country records, back property taxes are owed on the building for both 2019 and 2020.

In addition to paying rent to the landlord, Adams now owes CSX, the railroad company, too. CSX recently took possession of the parking lot and driveway, and is charging Adams back rent, of which Gowa says Adams was unaware. Long story short: Expenses have increased, and of course, income was down during the pandemic.

There are several ways to help efforts to save Fran’s East Side: Go have a beer or two. Karaoke takes place from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday-Sunday. The bar opens at 9:30 a.m. six days a week (noon on Sundays). Donate to the GoFundMe. Gowa says Adams could use the help of an attorney with whom she could consult, not to mention leads on properties for rent. While Adams will be able to turn any space into a welcoming dive bar with the oversized cat tapestry hanging from the wall, Gowa thinks an older property with some character would be the best fit.

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