Dinner Bell Restaurant shuts its doors after 47 years

The restaurant opened its doors in 1975.
The restaurant opened its doors in 1975.
Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:51 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SWEETWATER, Tenn. (WVLT) - It’s the end of an era for an East Tennessee business. The Dinner Bell Restaurant in Sweetwater closed Monday after 47 years in business.

The restaurant opened its doors in 1975.

“I was here the first day, and I’m here the last day,” said Marion Curtis Montooth, owner of the Dinner Bell Restaurant.

Montooth said challenges with COVID-19 and the ongoing labor shortage have made it difficult to run the business. More than anything, he’s just ready to retire.

“We’re getting older, and we maybe don’t like to work seven days a week as much as we used to,” he said.

Montooth called it a bittersweet goodbye. He said the past two weeks have been some of the busiest he’s ever seen at the restaurant, with so many customers getting their last meals in.

“I usually work from 5:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and in just one shift, I probably got 20, 30 regulars every day,” said Beth Martin, a 10-year waitress at Dinner Bell.

She said a lot of those customers have become like family. “They come in, we know their drinks, what they eat, and everything.”

It’s that family-like culture that has kept so many customers coming back year after year.

“The fellowship, the good food, just the atmosphere,” said Gary Plemons, a regular at the restaurant who wanted to get one final meal..

“It’s pretty sad,” explained Rhonda Plemons, “because we’ve been coming here for so many years, and we just really hate to see it close.”

The restaurant that left so many of its customers full over the years is now leaving them hungry for a new place.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’ll have to find somewhere,” said Kim Stevens, another restaurant regular.

Montooth said he sold the property, and the new owner has plans of redeveloping the space.

Montooth said he was hopeful the restaurant would do well when it first opened. He had no idea that it would turn into 47 years of success.