The Greenbrier Restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee has long been a staple destination for visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains. Known for its comforting southern cuisine served in a rustic, log cabin-style setting since 1978, the cozy eatery has provided memories for travelers over the decades.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Greenbrier Restaurant closed its doors permanently in 2020 primarily due to financial difficulties exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview explaining the history of the restaurant, factors leading up to its closure, community and customer reactions, and what the future may hold for the iconic building.

History and Background of the Greenbrier Restaurant

The Greenbrier Restaurant, located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, has a rich history and has been a beloved fixture in the community since its establishment in 1978. Over the years, it has become synonymous with delicious food, warm hospitality, and a cozy lodge-like ambiance.

Origins and early days as a Gatlinburg fixture since 1978

The Greenbrier Restaurant was founded in 1978 by John and Mary Johnson, who had a vision of creating a charming dining experience that showcased the best of Southern hospitality. The restaurant quickly gained popularity among locals and tourists alike, becoming a go-to destination for those seeking a memorable meal in Gatlinburg.

From its humble beginnings, the Greenbrier Restaurant grew steadily, expanding its menu and offerings to cater to a diverse range of palates. The Johnsons’ dedication to quality and their commitment to providing excellent service ensured that the restaurant thrived and became an integral part of the community.

Menu and ambiance as a comfortable, rustic lodge

The Greenbrier Restaurant is known for its mouthwatering menu, which features a variety of dishes that celebrate the flavors of the region. From traditional Southern classics like fried chicken and biscuits to hearty steaks and fresh seafood, there is something to satisfy every craving.

Aside from its delectable cuisine, the Greenbrier Restaurant also boasts a warm and inviting ambiance that transports diners to a cozy, rustic lodge. The timber beams, stone fireplace, and charming d├ęcor create a welcoming atmosphere that makes guests feel right at home.

Whether you’re enjoying a romantic dinner for two or gathering with friends and family, the Greenbrier Restaurant offers a memorable dining experience.

Significance in the community as a long-running local staple

The Greenbrier Restaurant holds a special place in the hearts of locals, who have cherished it as a beloved gathering spot for generations. It has become a symbol of the community’s history and identity, a place where memories are made and traditions are celebrated.

Over the years, the Greenbrier Restaurant has witnessed countless joyous occasions, from birthdays and anniversaries to graduations and weddings. Its role in bringing people together and fostering a sense of camaraderie cannot be overstated.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and it is with a heavy heart that we announce the closing of the Greenbrier Restaurant. However, its legacy will live on in the hearts of those who have had the pleasure of dining there and experiencing the magic it offered.

For more information about the history of the Greenbrier Restaurant, you can visit their official website:

Challenges and Changing Times for the Restaurant

The closure of the historic Greenbrier Restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee was a significant event that left many locals and tourists alike saddened by the loss. However, it is important to understand the challenges and changing times that contributed to the closure of this iconic establishment.

Increasing operating costs and taxes over the decades

Like many businesses, the Greenbrier Restaurant faced increasing operating costs and taxes over the decades. As the cost of ingredients, utilities, and employee wages rose, it became more challenging for the restaurant to maintain profitability while still providing quality food and service.

Additionally, the burden of taxes on small businesses can be particularly challenging, especially in a tourist-driven area like Gatlinburg.

According to a study conducted by the National Restaurant Association, the average profit margin for restaurants is typically around 3-5%. With rising costs and taxes, this slim margin can be easily eroded, making it difficult for restaurants to stay afloat.

Competition from new restaurants in Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg has seen a boom in tourism over the years, which has led to an influx of new restaurants in the area. While competition is a healthy part of any industry, the saturation of dining options in Gatlinburg made it challenging for the Greenbrier Restaurant to stand out and attract customers.

Newer restaurants often have modern and trendy atmospheres, innovative menus, and aggressive marketing strategies that can be difficult for older establishments to compete with. Despite its rich history and loyal customer base, the Greenbrier Restaurant struggled to keep up with the changing preferences of tourists who were drawn to newer and more exciting dining experiences.

Impacts from wildfires and recession on tourism

In 2016, Gatlinburg was hit by devastating wildfires that caused significant damage to the area. The Greenbrier Restaurant, like many other businesses, was forced to close temporarily during the recovery process.

The loss of revenue during this time, combined with the overall economic downturn caused by the recession, had a profound impact on the restaurant’s financial stability.

According to data from the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, tourism in the area dropped by 11% in the year following the wildfires. This decrease in visitors had a ripple effect on local businesses, including the Greenbrier Restaurant, which struggled to recover from the financial losses incurred during this challenging period.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Deals the Final Blow

The closure of the historic Greenbrier Restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee can be attributed to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant, which had been a beloved landmark in the area for decades, was unable to withstand the various challenges brought on by the pandemic.

State-mandated restaurant restrictions and closures

One of the major factors that led to the closure of the Greenbrier Restaurant was the implementation of state-mandated restrictions and closures. As the COVID-19 virus spread across the country, Tennessee, like many other states, implemented strict measures to control the outbreak.

These measures included limitations on indoor dining capacities, mandatory mask-wearing, and social distancing guidelines. Unfortunately, these restrictions significantly impacted the restaurant’s ability to operate at full capacity and generate sufficient revenue to cover expenses.

Plummeting visitor numbers to Gatlinburg in 2020

Gatlinburg, a popular tourist destination known for its picturesque landscapes and charming attractions, experienced a sharp decline in visitor numbers in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions, fear of contracting the virus, and economic uncertainties all contributed to a decrease in tourism.

The Greenbrier Restaurant heavily relied on tourist traffic for its business, and the decline in visitors had a severe impact on its profitability. With fewer customers frequenting the restaurant, it became increasingly difficult to sustain operations and meet financial obligations.

Financial difficulties and inability to pay bills

The combination of state-mandated restrictions and plummeting visitor numbers resulted in significant financial difficulties for the Greenbrier Restaurant. With limited revenue streams, the restaurant struggled to cover essential expenses such as rent, utilities, and employee wages.

Despite efforts to adapt and offer takeout or delivery services, it was not enough to offset the loss of dine-in customers. As a result, the restaurant faced mounting debts and an inability to meet financial obligations, ultimately leading to its closure.

It is important to note that the Greenbrier Restaurant is not alone in its struggle. Many businesses in the hospitality industry have faced similar challenges and have been forced to close their doors permanently.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses cannot be underestimated, and efforts to support local establishments during these difficult times are crucial.

Community Reactions to the Closure

Outpouring of memories and sadness on social media

The closure of the historic Greenbrier Restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee has sparked an outpouring of memories and sadness from the local community. Social media platforms have been flooded with posts and comments from people who have fond memories of dining at the restaurant over the years.

Many are sharing stories of special occasions celebrated at Greenbrier, such as weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays. Others are expressing their sadness at the loss of a beloved establishment that held a special place in their hearts.

Support for displaced staff who lost jobs

One heartwarming aspect of the community’s response to the closure is the overwhelming support shown for the staff members who lost their jobs. Many locals have rallied together to offer assistance and job opportunities to the displaced employees.

Local business owners have reached out to offer temporary employment, while others have started fundraising efforts to provide financial support to the staff during this transition. The community’s generosity and compassion towards the affected employees has been truly remarkable.

Petitions and efforts to save or reopen the restaurant

The closure of the Greenbrier Restaurant has not gone unnoticed by the community, and many are determined to save or reopen the iconic establishment. Petitions have been circulating both online and offline, with thousands of signatures gathered in support of keeping the restaurant alive.

Efforts are being made to find potential investors or buyers who could take over and revive the Greenbrier. Local business organizations and community leaders are also exploring options to provide financial assistance or incentives to ensure the restaurant’s future.

The determination and dedication displayed by the community to save the Greenbrier is a testament to the deep connection and love they have for this historic landmark.

What’s Next for the Historic Greenbrier Building?

With the closing of the beloved Greenbrier Restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, many locals and tourists are left wondering about the future of the iconic building. The Greenbrier, which has been a staple in the community for decades, holds a special place in the hearts of many.

Let’s explore some potential scenarios for the future of this historic establishment.

Some potential for the building to reopen under new ownership

One possibility for the Greenbrier building is that it may reopen under new ownership. The closure of the restaurant was undoubtedly a loss for the community, but it also presents an opportunity for someone else to step in and continue the legacy.

With its prime location and rich history, the building has great potential to attract new entrepreneurs who are passionate about preserving Gatlinburg’s heritage while offering a fresh take on dining experiences.

There have been instances where historic buildings have been successfully transformed into new ventures, such as boutique hotels or event spaces. This could be a viable option for the Greenbrier, allowing it to continue serving as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike.

Possible preservation efforts for the iconic structure

The Greenbrier building holds significant historical value and architectural charm that should not be overlooked. It has witnessed the growth and evolution of Gatlinburg, and preserving its unique character is of utmost importance.

There may be local preservation organizations or historical societies that could step in to advocate for the building’s protection and restoration.

Preserving the Greenbrier could involve a combination of fundraising efforts, public-private partnerships, and community involvement. This would not only ensure the building’s longevity but also provide an opportunity for locals to actively participate in the preservation of their town’s heritage.

Serving as a memorial to a treasured local establishment

Another option for the Greenbrier building is to transform it into a memorial to commemorate the cherished memories and experiences shared within its walls. This could be done through the creation of a museum or exhibition space, showcasing the history of the restaurant and its impact on the community.

By creating a memorial, the Greenbrier building would continue to hold a special place in the hearts of locals and serve as a reminder of the importance of preserving our cultural heritage. Visitors to Gatlinburg would have the opportunity to learn about the restaurant’s legacy and its significance to the area.


For over 40 years, the Greenbrier Restaurant served up hospitality and cherished memories in the Smoky Mountains along with its hearty country cuisine. The unprecedented challenges of 2020 sadly led this Gatlinburg establishment to close its doors for good.

While the circumstances are undoubtedly difficult, the community will never forget the Greenbrier’s important legacy. With its cozy ambiance, dedicated staff, and familiar comfort food, the restaurant defined a piece of the town’s history.

The Greenbrier may be gone, but its spirit and contributions will always remain in Gatlinburg.

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