Southern Bar: The Station Inn

A Nashville, Tennessee institution

Photo: Tim Tomkinson

I don’t go to bars, per se. But being a musician, I often find myself in music clubs that have bars. My favorite such room in Nashville is the Station Inn. Open since 1974, the Station Inn is known worldwide for presenting the best in bluegrass and roots music. It seats 175—mostly at tables and chairs. But back against the wall, patrons comfortably settle into seats salvaged from Lester Flatt’s tour bus.

Like a relic from the Stone Age, the unassuming one-story flat-roofed stone building sits in the middle of a rapidly gentrifying area downtown called the Gulch, surrounded by sleek high-rises. The decor is vintage honky-tonk. Original Hatch Show Print posters and neon signs advertising beer (mostly Budweiser) adorn the windowless walls. At the far end of the room stands the bar, which offers beer (draft or bottled), soft drinks, popcorn, nachos, and pizza. John Prine once proclaimed the Station Inn had the best pizza in town. That may be debatable, but whenever I’m there, I nearly always order the small pizza with Italian sausage, green pepper, and onion, with a bottle of pale ale or Dos Perros beer (brewed locally at the Yazoo Brewing Company).

Booze is booze and beer is beer. But atmosphere and people are what make a bar great. And the Station Inn definitely attracts characters. Take, for instance, the two women who keep the place humming. One, Lin Barber, can be found behind the bar, while the other, Ann Soyars, is usually out front, often working the door on busy nights. Ann refers to herself as “short bitch,” Lin refers to herself as “tall bitch,” and they both refer to owner J. T. Gray as “son of a bitch.” To label these no-nonsense country women “feisty” would be an understatement. They often say things that make me blush. But most important, they make me feel at home.