On an early Friday evening, you’ll find families and couples swarming the traffic circle on Main Street in Downtown Franklin, heading to dinner at Gray’s, 55 South, or Culaccino. But to find Franklin’s newest bar, you’ll need to walk past those leisurely crowds toward the historic Williamson County Chancery Court Clerk house and turn right behind Mellow Mushroom’s patio seating into a back alley. That’s where the Amendment XVIII adventure begins.
Dean Marsh, co-owner of Amendment XVIII, along with Steve Barone, launched the bar in nearby Westhaven, a mixed-use residential neighborhood off Highway 96. But he eventually realized that they would need to move the location if growth was in the cards. “We wanted to be surrounded by more restaurants and bars,” he says.
Now situated at 317 Main Street, patrons will need to enter through the back alley door of Mellow Mushroom and locate a gray electrical box on the wall. Inside the box: a “Frankenstein switch” — after a quick pull, a green light bulb turns on alerting staff to guests at the entrance to the bar.
Once inside, the bar will feel like a throwback to Prohibition-era speakeasies: a back lounge with tables made from red boxelder trees and wooden pews from the Grand Ole Opry; a stamped tin roof; vintage mirrors from a consignment shop in Nashville; framed black-and-white photos taken in Franklin and Nashville during Prohibition; and a large wooden island in the middle of the space repurposed from a 200-year-old Amish barn.
The cocktail program here, headed up by bar manager Hunter Thammavongsa, features 17 drinks, each a twist on a classic cocktail. Take the Volstead, a riff on the Old-Fashioned using four different rums, rye, sherry, housemade coconut bitters, and mole bitters. But Thammaavongsa also pulled inspiration from his cultural background when imagining the menu, as seen in the lemongrass, lychee, and jasmine tea in the Impassioned Sanctuary. “My dad was an immigrant from Southeast Asia. I’m proud to honor the herbs and ingredients from that region and use them in an elevated, beautiful way,” says Thammavongsa.
Ultimately, Thammavongsa’s vision for Amendment XVIII is to introduce people to cocktails in the hopes of keeping the industry he loves alive. “If [cocktail culture] stops with older generations, then it dies. I want people to become comfortable with spirits,” says Thamavongsa. “We want to [serve] cocktails that are memory makers for people.”
Accompanying the drinks is a roster of unfussy small plates and dishes that veer into the realm of comfort food. Four different kinds of sliders (classic, hot chicken, beef barbecue, fried chicken and ranch), gouda mac and cheese bites, and a cheese and charcuterie board round out the food offerings along with a bourbon pecan pie from neighboring Merridee’s that can only be found at Amendment XVIII and one other location in Nashville.
Guests can take their patronage to the next level with membership in the Locker Club. Although the $50 monthly membership deal is currently sold out, there are still a handful of spots available for the $300 a month VIP membership which includes a locker for storing up to three bottles, a special Amendment XVIII app that grants the member immediate access to the door, reservations for up to two persons three hours in advance, and free admission to monthly tastings.
The bar’s later hours are also helping to fill a gap in Downtown Franklin’s dining and entertainment scene. “We’re good friends with the local establishments here — Red Pony, Cork and Cow, Culaccino — what’s happening is they’re sending their dinner guests here because we’re open late,” says Marsh. “A lot of the people that work at these establishments end up at our bar after work, too.” But Marsh notes that they’re also eyeing two more locations for Amendment XVIII in the near future.
Amendment XVIII is open Tuesday to Thursday from 4 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Sundays from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.