Stuck in the Middle

Before the Tuscaloosa City Council’s vote to approve another Gastropub on University Blvd, the site was being readied for the new business.

During the Pre-Council meeting on July 26, 2022, no concerns by members of the Council about the Gastropub The Standard were expressed. Council President Kip Tyner said that a letter written by the father-in-law of the applicant was in support of the new venture. Peter Melon, who was a Councilman in Easton, Pennsylvania was the sole individual who had submitted a comment. (The letter was never read into the record.)

Council member Matthew Wilson, in whose district the Gastropub is not located, said that he welcomed the new venture. There was a spirit of collegiality among the Council members, with a good deal of amiable banter and laughter before the vote.

The city made a pro forma presentation and the applicants made comments about the Gastropub being a family oriented place, where people could eat and drink. The hours of operation would be on Sunday from eleven am to eleven pm; and for the rest of the week, from eleven am to two am.

The Tuscaloosa Fire Department had registered its concern about “adding another establishment of this type in an already densely populated area. The adjacent occupancies have a combined occupancy load of close to 1100 people and it creates issues with exit discharge and loitering as it stands today.”

Mayor Walter Maddox said that, since it was obvious that everyone on the Council supported the Gastropub, there was no reason not to call for a vote.

It was not too long ago that Maddox had lamented that the Council had been given the false impression that another business located on The Strip would be a family oriented sports grill. Instead it has been among the bars on The Strip that, as reported by Stephan Dethrage, had been part of “loitering, overcrowding, open container violations and other problems.”

The city’s classification of a business as a Gastropub is codified (§24-5.) as:

Gastropub: An establishment where full menu meals are primarily served during typical mealtime hours and bar operations continue independently or as the primary use during late night hours, providing the on premise sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. In making this determination, the zoning officer shall consider the following criteria:

(1) Exclusions of patrons under the age of twenty-one (21) at any time;

(2) Removal or rearrangement of table and seating facilities from the floor area;

(3) Meals are still being served; and

(4) Cover charges being collected.

WVUA 23 NewsJabaree Prewitt and Erin Patterson in 2021 reported on new regulations for Gastropubs:

By unanimous vote, the Tuscaloosa City Council now has more power over the city’s bars and gastropubs after ordinance amendments were signed Tuesday.

The Council used the amendments to change full-service operating hours for gastropubs, which serve food until a certain time and then close their kitchens and serve only alcohol. Before the vote, gastropubs could serve food until midnight, but the new rule pushes that back to 10 p.m. After 10 p.m., gastropubs may only serve alcohol until close. These hours will apply only to new businesses, not existing ones.

Some prominent gastropub examples are Innisfree on University Boulevard, Bear Trap on the Strip and World of Beer on University Boulevard in downtown Tuscaloosa.

Essentially many Gastropubs have been a restaurant that morphs into a bar, allowing minors to be served food until a set hour. Closing a Gastropub to minors, when it has changed into a bar, has been at the discretion of its operators. Drink specials promote alcohol sales that frequently attract under-aged drinkers, according to BMC, part of Springer Nature.

Jason Morton in The Tuscaloosa News reported on steps that the city was considering to reduce overcrowding on The Strip. He wrote:

The City Council is weighing options to require permits for businesses – mainly bars and gastropubs, or restaurants that convert to bars after a certain hour – where a night’s entertainment can draw crowds that take over outdoor walkways.

A “queue permit” would be required for businesses that have experienced long lines outside their venues.

An ordinance that would amend §21-29 of the Tuscaloosa codes was discussed at the July, 26, 2022 Pre-Council meeting. It addressed problems with loitering, outdoor alcohol consumption, pedestrians being forced into the street and overcrowding.

The newly approved Gastropub on The Strip is located in between two of the most problematic establishments. Perhaps, if queuing is required, the existing problems will be alleviated?

Somehow the Stealers Wheel song “Stuck in the Middle With You” comes to mind:

Clowns to the left of me,

Jokers to the right, here I am,

Stuck in the middle with you.


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