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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Behind the bar: Tiger Mountain

Lyndall Harris
The typical weekend crowd engaged in revelry at Tiger Mountain. Photo courtesy of senior Lyndall Harris.

Downtown Asheville has an undeniably lively nightlife. Though known as ‘Beer City, USA,’ there is so much more to the city than hops and brews. Tiger Mountain, located less than two miles from UNC Asheville, has become a local hotspot for a good time, and is often frequented by of-age students and community members alike. Current owner Ned Keith has seen this bar through it’s many stages, and shared an insightful view into the ins and outs of Tiger, as well as his own experiences as a business owner. 

Keith is adamant that though he holds the keys to Tiger, it is the collaboration of him alongside so many others that keep the establishment running smoothly. 

“Tiger Mountain is a story, like most bars, that involves so many travelers and so many steps,” Keith said. “Tiger Mountain is not my bar. I am its primary custodian, at best.”

Keith began his own journey with Tiger Mountain in 2015, but started out as help to the original owners, Harvey Leisure, Sean Bickford and Bill Thorp. 

“Harvey and Sean split over serious differences, and Sean relocated to the location we have now,” Keith said. “Harvey went to do Lazy Diamond. Sean exited Tiger completely at the end of 2015. Sean Bickford has absolutely no ties or links to Tiger Mountain. I took over here at this point.”

Having any sort of stake in a downtown Asheville business is no small feat as real estate continues to boom and large investors flock to the area. 

“As an owner, you are betting on yourself. So just do it, and keep trying,” said Keith. “I have 3 basic priorities from greatest to least: first priority, do good. Second, make money. Third, do something you like.”

Tiger Mountain employs a variety of smiling faces, and the interior itself is a festival of lights and music, with walls littered with vintage photos, books and games. The personality of the establishment shines through its unique and comforting atmosphere.

“I consider myself working with people. Together, we do more than either of us could do alone. So we work together, and that is a synergistic relationship,” Keith said. 

“My job requires that I constantly adapt and work to assess and appreciate the pros and cons of everyone, and see what I can do to bring elements together to increase our goals within the restraints of our imposed limitations.”

As a business owner, Keith said he is aware of the stressors that can affect the establishment. He saw firsthand the effect of a global pandemic on a bar that is heavily based on human interaction and community collaboration. Keith is also aware of the location of Tiger Mountain, and is dedicated to ensuring the comfort and safety of all patrons. 

“Tiger Mountain is like a living room. People can show up and share with others. Vulnerable people show up. Predators show up too,” said Keith. “So, we host, we guard, we try. We try to remind others we are here tonight because we are human.”

Keith often finds himself spread thin throughout the bar, but admits his main goal each day he goes to work is for everyone to have a good night at Tiger, and to provide what he can to ensure a great experience for everyone. 

“Tiger Mountain doesn’t sell alcohol, that is just a medium for us to pay the bills,” Keith said. “Tiger Mountain sells human interactions. We provide an environment for people to be around people, and share the human experience with everyone.”

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