Blackburn, Pence to shut down Plaza Tower

Betty BeanFeature

First Tennessee Plaza stands tall on the 800 block of Gay Street. Its tower is populated by bankers, financial advisers, lawyers and stockbrokers. The ground floor houses locally-owned eateries and retail or service establishments (including two shoeshine stands) that service the professional hive upstairs.

They’re all going to be hit in the pocketbook by today’s (9/21) scheduled fundraising event for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn, who is hosting a pricey luncheon at Club LeConte, which is perched on the top floor of First Tennessee Plaza. Vice President Mike Pence will attend, triggering extreme security measures that have virtually shut down the city’s premier office building.

Pence and Blackburn will be among those attending an 11 a.m. event at the Knoxville Convention Center, hosted by the CPAC 365 and the National Rifle Association. (Guns are not allowed!) Even the Convention Center event requires on-site or pre-registration. Doors open at 9 a.m. Info here.

This notice went out Friday from the management of First Tennessee Plaza to inform tenants of the disruption and inconvenience they’ll face today when Vice President Mike Pence eats lunch with Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn at Club LeConte.

A tenant at First Tennessee Plaza (who provided us this notice from building management) said the closure of the building’s parking garage and restrictions on access to the building itself are “more of an inconvenience” than a financial blow. “Who I’m worried about is the deli guy and Chris the hot dog vendor and the shoeshine men. The little guy’s going to take it on the chin and in the wallet.”

The tenant, who doesn’t want his name used, said he has lots of disgruntled colleagues who are not happy with having their workday disrupted by politicians.

Meanwhile, a group called ShieldWall Network Phalanx has announced plans to attend the CPAC meeting “to help protect and defend conservatives from the violent Communist Antifa who have threatened to disrupt the conference.”

No word from Antifa.

But Martha Boggs at the Bistro at the Bijou across the street from the First Tennessee Plaza has announced a fund-raiser and happy hour in support of Blackburn’s opponent, former Gov. Phil Bredesen. (He won’t be there.) It’s from 2-6 p.m. and Boggs said she’s checked with Homeland Security and been assured that pedestrian access will be allowed.

It’s a happening day for downtown Knoxville. And perhaps a good day to be someplace else.

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