From bartender to the bar association, Loy Carney is our readers' pick for top lawyer

We tracked Loy Carney down on the other side of the world to tell him the good news, that O&AN readers had for the first time voted him our community’s favorite lawyer.

“Aww… that’s amazing,” he said. “That’s amazing! Wow. Thank you.”

He is a real estate lawyer now, but most everyone is likely to recall his decade-spanning stint behind the bar at Tribe, from its inception in 2002 through his last day on the job in March 2013. And there are a handful of us who worked with him prior to that, during his six-year run as a floor manager at the Wildhorse Saloon. When I caught up with him in mid-October, on a phone call via Facebook Messenger, he was in Rome with his partner Grayson.

“We’re doing Rome for three days and Athens for three days,” he said. “We’re jokingly calling it our Pantheon to Parthenon Tour.”

A quick recap: Loy left the bartending gig at Tribe and immediately began work as a lawyer.

“The first job I ever had was bagging groceries at Kroger,” he said, marking the beginning of a career that at first glance doesn’t appear to have followed a linear path, “and that was a terrible job because nobody at the grocery store wants to be there. So I decided then that I wanted to work around people who were happy, who were where they wanted to be at the moment I was interacting with them. And from the Wildhorse to Rainforest Café to all the way through Tribe and what I’m doing now, that’s been the case.”

The management position at the Wildhorse Saloon was foundational in his development as a leader. After a short run at a bar in Knoxville, he moved home to Nashville and, just 22-years-old at the time, was rebuffed at first by the Wildhorse general manager, who diverted him to the mothership Opryland Hotel for six months in order to prove himself to the local team.

“The Wildhorse was so much fun because we were all kind of a family there,” he said. “My primary role [as closing manager] was the evening shift and closing it up and being the last one to lock the door and get out of there pretty much every night. I’d say I owe a debt of gratitude to Richard Roy for taking a leap of faith on a 22-year-old kid and making him a manager of a venue like that.”

He worked closely with Joy Powers, who most evenings assisted him in the closing duty.

“Every achievement I had at the Wildhorse was because of him,” she said. “He mentored me through a training program, and even invented a cocktail for me. We went to the Beer Cellar many nights after work and we just started sampling beers. I never liked any of them, so he came up with a Midori amaretto concoction that was sweet and green, because it’s my favorite color. He didn’t give up until he found a beverage for me. He called it an Emerald City.”

If you knew him back then, it would seem as though Loy has changed very little. It was refreshing for me, personally, to know someone so full of life even before he came out, as we all know him now.

But I was never one to challenge the status quo. Jeffrey Pennington, another former co-worker from that era, has a very unique favorite memory of Loy at the Wildhorse.

“I will never forget Loy’s face when I dressed up like Madonna for an employee talent showcase,” he said. “He was mortified. He told me later that he couldn’t even look at me. Another manager told me he went to the third floor [where, at the time, any view of the public area was obstructed] while I performed on stage. He was so uncomfortable. It was the first time that I questioned out loud his sexuality.”

From that humble beginning to now, nearly twenty years later, a real estate attorney traveling the world with his partner of four years. According to Loy, he always wanted to become a lawyer.

“It was kind of gnawing in the back of my mind,” he said, “something I wanted to do, but after I left the Wildhorse Saloon I went to the Rainforest Café and stayed there for about a year, then Buffalo Billiards for about a year, and then joined up with the guys that opened Tribe for the grand opening in 2002 and it was at that time I said, ‘you know what? I love this job and I love these people but I just don’t want to work at night anymore.’”

What followed was an education journey that culminated in a law degree in late 2010. “It was definitely a labor of love to get through all that time, to make it work,” he said, “but luckily the clientele at Tribe put me on a slow, slow scholarship program just through my employment there and it was wonderful.”

Tribe General Manager Bud East can attest to that. “He truly left his mark on Tribe,” he said. “People still today ask ‘where did he go?’ or comment on what a great bartender he was. With his personality he connected with so many people, just knowing their names and what they were drinking. He always has a witty saying or a funny joke to open a door to friendship.”

“When he chose to move on and become a lawyer,” he added, “I think reality finally set in, that things at Tribe would change. He led such a strong example to the other workers, giving them hope and understanding whenever they were having a bad night. I so miss that special spark. He is truly one of a kind.”

Loy passed the bar in February 2011 and was licensed as a lawyer in June. Despite a claim that he didn’t want to work the nightlife, he stayed at Tribe for another two years when he decided ultimately that real estate law was his passion. And it was for a reason consistent with his career philosophy.

According to Loy, real estate law “is really a celebratory process and I can tell you this — and it’s just gonna be a secret between you and me and all of your readers — when you are a lawyer, one of the struggles is that most all lawyers deal with clients that are unhappy or having a bad day or at least a bad event in their life. But I have found an opportunity to practice law and deal with 95% happy clients because they’re just buying and selling homes which is exactly what they want to do at that moment.”

Nearly five years into a new career, one with a radically different work schedule, the question presents itself: do you ever go out at all? Do you hate bars now?

“No, not at all!” he said, with a laugh. “I definitely don’t visit any of the bars as much as I used to when it was gainful employment but I do enjoy it. I’ll tell you this. The number one question that people ask me [when I go out] is ‘Loy, do you miss it?’ and I have to say yes but I tell them also that anytime I miss it I just come in and hang out and have a couple drinks and I get 90% of the same great feeling that I used to when I worked there. I get to see all my old friends, and so it’s fun that way.”

“My number one discovery since I left the bar is that it’s far more expensive on the outside than it is to hang out behind the bar. I used to make money on the inside, now I gotta spend money on the outside!”





See also:

FAVES & RAVES 2017: Nightlife

FAVES & RAVES 2017: Dining

FAVES & RAVES 2017: Look Good, Feel Good

FAVES & RAVES 2017: Places

FAVES & RAVES 2017: Community

FAVES & RAVES 2017: Professional & Business Services

FAVES & RAVES 2017: Weddings

FAVES & RAVES 2017: From bartender to the bar association, Loy Carney is our readers' pick for top lawyer





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