In this four-part video series, Senior Food Editor Mary-Frances Heck checks in with four Birmingham, Alabama, businesses as they navigate their new reality.

By Bridget Hallinan
April 02, 2020
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Mary-Frances Heck

The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered restaurants, bars, and food businesses all across the country, causing mass layoffs in the industry and forcing owners to make painful choices. Some have had to shut down entirely, while others have been trying to find ways to pivot through take-out and delivery. (The coronavirus stimulus package was also recently passed—read our guide to find out what that means for small businesses and former service industry employees.)

Food & Wine Senior Food Editor Mary-Frances Heck visited four food and beverage businesses in Birmingham, Alabama, earlier this month to see how they’ve adapted. The bar Queen’s Park has been offering fully mixed virgin cocktails in sealed containers, with optional mini bottles of liquor to be added at home; Evans Meats & Seafood has changed its operation from wholesale to direct-to-public. Watch our videos with each business below.

Queen’s Park

Mary-Frances stops by Queen’s Park, a cocktail bar located in the city’s downtown Loft District, to talk to co-owner and celebrated bartender Laura Newman about the steps she’s taken to keep the business running. They started selling to-go cocktails in sealed containers; however, since filming, the Alabama ABC Board has clarified that all liquor must be sold in its original packaging. So the team has pivoted to selling fully mixed virgin cocktails with optional mini bottles of liquor to be added at home. 

“All we want to do is make sure that everybody’s happy, you know, and safe at the same time,” Queen’s Park co-owner and Newman’s fiancé Larry “Mudd” Townley said. “Hopefully we can find a nice common ground for both. Adapt, overcome, and stay well."

Automatic Seafood and Oysters

Automatic Seafood and Oysters has figured out how to pivot to a curbside and takeout model. Mary-Frances talks to the executive chef and owner, Adam Evans, as well as owner and project designer Suzanne Humphries—they’re working to use what they have on hand and figuring out ways to preserve the seafood, too. For example, Evans talked about shucking oysters and preserving them in oil, as well as drying out excess snapper.

“We’re redoing [the menu] every day,” Humphries said. “We would do that anyway, but now it’s not, what is the farm, who’s caught what, or what have they grown? It’s what do we have? What has the shortest shelf life? What do we need to use today, versus what can we wait and use for two days?”

Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ

Mary-Frances heads over to Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ, where she talks with Culinary Director Roscoe Hall. Rodney Scott’s has also pivoted to curbside service—it's offering almost the full menu, along with affordably priced family meals that feed six to 12. Hall says the majority of their clientele has been first responders, and they’ve been giving them a 50 percent off discount. 

“It’s great to see how innovative chefs, bartenders, industry people as a whole are being right now across the country, across the globe to still get their menu and concept out,” Hall said. “And also doing it basically for free. This is not for money; this is all straight community-based. That’s a beautiful thing and people care about their staff so much that they’re willing to do this.”

Evans Meats & Seafood, Inc.

Mary-Frances visits Addam Evans, owner of Evans Meats & Seafood. Previously, 90 percent of the company’s revenue came from restaurant sales—bulk orders like whole sides of fish and whole pieces of beef. Now, the team is breaking them down into single servings so they can sell directly to the public.

“This is a small way for us to try to keep some revenue in, keep employees hired,” Evans said.