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Nashville’s Cocktail Den Attaboy Reopens — a Beacon of Hope After Enduring Unspeakable Tragedy and Loss

After tornado, the loss of a team member, and pandemic, Attaboy opens its doors for cocktails again with a new mantra: positive vibes only

Michael McIlroy/Attaboy

East Nashville’s no-menu cocktail den Attaboy is reopening on Friday, October 23 for the first time in nearly eight months after the building and the team suffered unspeakable damage and loss due to tornado and pandemic. But even after enduring such loss, the team is adamant about a new “positive vibes only” mantra going forward — more on that later.

Owned by Sam Ross, Michael McIlroy, Brandon Bramhall, Attaboy opened its Nashville outpost in 2017. Less than three years later, as tornadoes ripped right through Nashville in March while many were asleep, a number of restaurants sustained damage, and some were completely destroyed, including Attaboy. Hundreds of homes in East and North Nashville, Germantown, and Donelson sustained extensive structure damage, and 25 people lost their lives in the storms, including two East Nashville hospitality industry workers —Michael Dolfini, 36, and Albree Sexton, 33 who were fatally injured by debris near the intersection of McFerrin Avenue and Main Street around 1 a.m. Tuesday. The couple had just left Attaboy Lounge, where Dolfini worked. Sexton worked at The Fox Bar and Cocktail Club.

After enduring loss, damage, and pandemic over the last seven months, owner McIlroy says the Attaboy team are closer and stronger than ever before. “It’s certainly brought us much closer together. Mike and Albree weren’t just some employees, they were our family. Suffering such a loss then going straight into lockdown has certainly taken its toll on all of us but I’m so proud of our staff who have come through this and helped make Attaboy stronger and better. I feel there isn’t anything we can’t handle after the year we’ve had... It truly is an honor to be associated with them.”

McIlroy says of course the process of rebuilding and reopening has been quite an emotional time. “We lost so much that night, but rebuilding Attaboy is our way to honor the memories of those no longer with us. It also shows our resilience and determination to continue being part of this incredible East Nashville community that’s been so accepting of us and helped us with our healing process.”

As far as what to expect with the reopening, operations and vibes are the same. Knock on the door, wait for it to open and a host will greet you and ask for how many in your party. You’ll then be seated or given a wait time. Once you’re in, there’s no menu. Staff will ask a short round of questions to hone in on exactly what type of drink each customer is in the mood for, and then take it from there. Outside — there’s a fresh coat of paint, a few interior design changes, and a new mural outside.

And a new mantra going forward, from their own, Mike Dolfini: “Positive vibes only.”

McIlroy says after all the time passed, damages, and lives lost, he’s most excited to once again light the candles, turn down the lights down, and get back to making some dark and stormys.

For now, Attaboy will be open 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. McIlroy assures that measures are taken to make guests and the Attaboy team feel as safe as possible, with temp checks, testing, contract tracing, plus plenty of hand sanitizer and social distancing.

The new mural on the side of Attaboy
Michael McIlroy/Attaboy