By on 19 June, 2012 in Bars, Fun, Kate and Stephen, Shopping with 45 Comments

Last week, we broke the news that a “semi-authentic” Irish Pub run by the team behind AlleyBAR and SandBAR was rumored to be moving into the Cloverdale Five Points site now occupied by M. Bagwell. The rumored 99-seat bar came with a name (SugrueBAR) and a logo (a coat of arms thing). And that was about all we knew.

There has been lots of talk since then, with many folks raising valid questions about the plan. Last night, we went to a rare joint neighborhood association meeting of the Old Cloverdale Association and our own Cloverdale-Idlewild Association. The goal? To hear from the man behind the BAR franchises himself. His name is Mike Watson, and he’s an architect at 2WR here in Montgomery. There were more than 40 people there from both neighborhoods, all eager to hear what Watson would have to say. The discussion centered around four major areas:

1. What’s the plan? It turns out, according to Watson, there really is no plan yet.

“We have no real plans yet,” said Watson. “We have done zilch except theorize about how the bar could work.”

One idea is to buy out M. Bagwell’s lease and build an Irish-themed bar (the phrase “semi-authentic” was used a number of times). This hypothetical establishment would be the SugrueBAR, named after a Watson employee whose family roots lie in Ireland. This gentleman seemed likely to manage the bar. He had evidently managed one in Auburn for a few years before it failed. Also, there might be another bar next to this one – the tentatively named LevelBAR, conceived by Kathy Johnson (ex-wife of former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Johnson). That bar would be entirely dark, with all employees visually impaired. The bar(s), which may be in the Bagwell space, could also make room for a smaller studio for Mandy Bagwell.

2. Where will people park? There is also no plan for this. Tomatino’s & Louisa’s owner Missy Mercer spoke up at the meeting, pointing out that 75% of her business is carry-out. She worried about the parking spaces in front being tied up even more than they are now. Bud Skinner (the owner of Bud’s, of course, as well as Jubilee) pointed out that he actually leases the lot next to 1048 and pays for the lighting there out of his own pocket so that his employees and patrons will have a place to park. George Olsson, who volunteers at the Capri said that as far he knew, the Capri was not interested in turning the lot behind the theater into a multi-level parking deck. Watson said what we all already know, which is that there is already a parking problem in Five Points. But when pressed by the audience, he was not yet able to explain where his patrons would park.

3. Where will the trash go? Several local business owners were concerned about this, but Watson did not say where he thought trash from the new bar(s) might be stored. He noted that there are current trash storage problems at the downtown Alley properties due to construction there.

4. Will it meet the fire code? There will need to be a new back entrance for the bar in order for it to meet the fire code, but there are as yet no plans for making that a reality.

5. What’s the bigger picture? We were surprised to learn that in addition to SugrueBAR and LevelBAR, Watson’s group is also working on several other projects, all of them bars. One will be called AviatorBAR. It will be downtown across from the Renaissance (and airplane-themed). CloverBAR would be in the downtown Kress building and somehow use the spaces where the department store once kept its racially segregated water fountains. And there will also be an as-yet-unnamed BAR to be on a rooftop somewhere on Dexter.

That small stretch of the neighborhood currently has bars in El Rey, LeRoy, Tomatino’s, Bud’s, Sinclair’s, and 1048. The addition of a “semi-authentic” Irish pub (which will have a limited menu, but won’t be open for lunches) will be interesting. We look forward to hearing more as plans formalize and develop and we were heartened to be part of the discussion as the neighborhoods get involved in the planning process.

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  1. Sarah says:

    I sure hope they aren’t serious about “LevelBAR”. If I want to sit and drink in the dark, i’ll do it like you’re supposed to: at home where the drinks are free. Also whole “BAR” concept is PLAYED OUT! Move on, Mike Watson. Your generic, no-atmosphere bars aren’t wanted in Cloverdale.

    How about instead of putting a new “BAR” in Cloverdale, why don’t we work on getting the Entertainment Loop Trolley back??

    • Rhodes says:

      There is nothing ” level” on that block. My vision is 20/20 and I remember as a child how hard it was to get out of a car and have to navigate the slope of the pavement from the front wheels of the car being parked 45 degrees higher than the back wheels. It was most unfortunate that the merchants were not given the opportunity to buy the spaces that they rented. The eight buildings sold for a little over $550,00.00. Perhaps someone will take a stand for what little charm and history that our city has left.
      The Capri theater’s spokesman even endorsed Mr. Watson plan to create an “Entertainment District” to five points.

  2. Jay Croft says:

    This is surreal. I also think it’s perhaps a joke of the Allen Funt “Gotcha!” type.

    Why would you want visually-impaired employees who would have great difficulty reading labels on the containers, especially in the dark? (By the way, reverse discrimination like this is illegal.)

  3. M says:

    I was at that meeting and I must say, it was a bit hostile. I think everyone needs to settle down for a moment and take a breath. First of all, what is going to happen to the Bagwell space if it isn’t turned into a bar? Are there any other serious businesses looking at the space? If not, I would think having Montgomery’s first Irish bar could be a serious asset to the neighborhood, not a detriment. Cloverdale has a young hip vibe that a bar like this would certainly serve well.

    Second, the five points area looks bad. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a fun place to be, but the sidewalks are crumbling, the asphalt is in terrible shape, landscaping is non-existent, and the business facades on the Tomatino’s side look rundown. Five Points could use some serious work. Perhaps getting that bar in the area will refresh the city’s focus on Cloverdale as a valued entertainment district and get some much need public works funds to fix those issues (much like what happened with the A&P area). And yes, bring back the trolley loop!

    • Rhodes says:

      Yes the broken beer bottles on the already bad sidewalks is such an attraction along with drunks pulling knives at standing in the middle of Fairview Ave @ Boultier screaming and I quote “I am going GUT you”. He screamed it wildly, with GREAT AGGRESSION. It was Christmas!
      I dialed 911 because I feared for her life. This kid got in his 4 door truck, backed out and spun his tires burning rubber in 5 complete circles and never hit a car or a person. His buddies convinced him to leave before the police arrived. Even with his tag number there was nothing done about the issue. Do we all need to move to Buck Head? Is there no middle ground?

  4. Jay Croft says:

    The A & P area doesn’t represent the best planning, in my opinion. There’s this odd jutting sidewalk opposite Dirk’s Filet & Vine. Store facades on the F & V block are still shabby. Parking hasn’t really improved much.

    And yes, the Five Points area needs serious upgrading. Sandra’s awning, installed a few years ago, is the bright spot. Most of the other businesses seem not to care. Across the street, El Rey is well-hidden; it took me about a year to figure that it’s a restaurant and to go in. (I thought at first the sign was put up to honor our second granddaughter, Ellery.)

  5. pat says:

    maybe he should wait and see how this one fairs first……

    • David says:

      From what I can tell the Irish Bred will be about as “Irish” as McDonald’s Shamrock shake. I forsee Guiness and Smithwicks/Harp on tap, Newcastle/Bass, then your normal bar beers. From the menu I read they have maybe three or four Irish items otherwise its nothing but normal sports bar food items. I think it might do ok downtown but its opening across from the new Railyard Brewery so its going to have competition right out the gate as they are both opening around the same time I think.

      As for the SugrueBAR I think that it probably won’t happen anytime soon. Mike Watson just opened the SandBAR and I don’t think that it’s doing that great being that far off the beaten path (granted I haven’t gone there). I also am not to fond of AlleyBAR as its really not my kind of place. Seems to be more of a place to be seen than a place to hang out with friends. Not really the kind of place you find in the Cloverdale area.

  6. anon says:

    The Look Boutique is no longer at the original site of 1048. Is it now for rent?

    Two doors down, (1038 E Fairview) the store has been closed for about a year. What the heck is going on with that space? Is the building owner still collecting rent? Is it available?

    • Rhodes says:

      No when she moved out, MW wanted to buy the “strip” so thought Valerie’s lease had run out, the current company in Management was advised NOT to offer any lease on “THE LOOK” or “THE OLD 1048” or M Bagwell. I wish everyone in the neighborhood, the very best, especially my friends, customers, fellow businessmen /women and neighbors of the last 18 years. Mike Watson has always been nice to me I the past, Mike and I have known each other for more than 40 years. Having grown up with his family and serving them as friends and customers makes this change difficult on our relationship, he has the right to do what ever he likes within the boundary of the law just like anyone else in the “the Land of the Free”.
      NO I AM NOT HAPPY ABOUT THE SITUATION. But I will survive. I do not think he has done anything to intentionally to “Harm” anyone, but he has caused great instability and loss of income to many businesses, to the future of man a business, in our city. My business opened in 1985 in Montgomery, Alabama. I just wish he would return my phone call.

  7. Kate says:

    No idea. I think The Look moved/is moving over to the greater Zelda Road co-prosperity zone; will be interesting to see what happens in that space.

  8. anon says:

    You’re right. it’s already opened between Born and California Yogurt Craze.

    I don’t get the other space remaining dormant for over a year.

    I’m hopeful that they get a couple of new vibrant businesses in these spots soon.

  9. Mike Davis says:

    Sarah, Sarah, Sarah…

    No one will force you to patronize any bar.

    Before you scorn M Watson; ask thyself, “what have I done for the local economy?”

    • Sarah says:

      What have I done for the local economy? Well i’m on the board of two community organizations which are for bettering the community, not watering it down with uninspired cookie cutter ideas. I only hang out in Old Cloverdale and after having many conversations with others, I know for a fact that Mr. Watson’s bars are not wanted in Cloverdale. We have cultivated a wonderful neighborhood atmosphere and a Mike Watson production would only bring in the kind of people who patronize the other BARS, which again is not looked upon kindly.

  10. K says:

    Why wouldn’t this be a good idea?? Cloverdale is slightly lame anyway.
    Aside from a semi-safe neighborhood and quaint homes for rent, what are all you guys being so stuck up about? You’ll still be able to buy smokes at the same bar you always do and sketchy white substances in a bathroom, but you will also get a new watering hole with- dare I say… Potentially cooler people/music. It would be somewhere to go without smelling like an ashtray afterward.
    Food for thought.

  11. anon says:

    AviatorBAR (Commerce Street, downtown) opens December 17. Still nothing happening at 1038 East Fairview.

  12. anon says:

    1048 East Fairview Avenue is still vacant.

    Still nothing happening at 1038 East Fairview; Christmas decorations in one random window, ten days after Christmas.

    • Sarah says:

      M Bagwell is opening back up. She apparently has been going thru some personal issues which forced her to close the location and start all the rumors. I have heard that she is opening the whole place up, but I have also heard that she will only be occupying part of the space. Seems to still be up in the air on specifics… Let’s just hope AviatorBAR will keep Mr. Watson busy for awhile.

    • Rhodes says:

      Please, they were not even my decorations, but you have my permission to shave my body with a rusty cat food can lid.. Hate Wal-Mart fro putting up Christmas Decorations before Halloween, and Valentine Decorations beforethe get rid of Christmas.

  13. ANON says:

    I’d love for a Colverdale-Idlewild resident like Mike Watson to breathe LIFE into one of the DEAD spaces on East Fairview Avenue!

    M Bagwell has been DEAD for about a year and a half. The Look’s space has been empty for several months!

    Also, the space next to Bud’s has been vacant for too long to remember!

    That Cloverdale business district needs more life, not DEAD SPACE!

    • Rhodes says:

      And if you only knew what she and her children you might understand her situation. She pays her rent, takes care of her children and reinvents her store and redecorates her store, inside and out. Quite often. I am sure MBagwell would let you run her store for six months so that you could see the full perspective. Your empathy may improve because your bank account and stock account will open your eyes to the real world of renting property along the strip that Is not maintained by the owner of the building.
      I wish you luck in all that you do in your work and life, but there is no reason to blame the renter. When the owner is a kina (was) cool elderly gentleman and in his passing away, left the property to his son. Rental property can be a horror, but I can assure we paid our money and never asked for much or anything other that Mr. Maynor’s permission to change or alter any part of the building. He always said yes to me for what I wanted as long as I paid for it and at times he would split cost or pay it all.

    • Rhodes says:

      Perhaps if the owner of the buildings eliminated 40 years of mold, asbestos, rotten wood and tobacco smoke, we, the worker bees and owners could regain our health. It would not be ” DEAD SPACE” it were habitable. Start at the top and talk to the owners of the buildings BOUT BEGINNING A CLEAN, MOULD AND TABACO FREE PLACE.

  14. ANON says:

    Mike Watson bought to whole strip.

  15. Rhodes says:

    I believe Mr. Skinner pays his rent on the old Kat-N-Harrys, along with the space between it and Jubilee. It is up to the city to maintain the sidewalks and street. Mindy has just undergone extensive work to the inside of her space and I do believe she has had some personal or heath issues keeping her from being open regularly. Cloverdale Jewelers has painted their store front and added new signage upgrading their space. It is not very conducive for a business owner to invest his/her money in a space where the roof has leaked for 30 years and has poor drainage allowing water to enter the building through back doors and cracked walls. The back of almost every building on the south side of the street is three feet or more underground. The apathy and lack of neighbors to realize that Mr. Watson can level every building that he purchased is so very sad.
    Has anyone considered that the economy has had a huge impact on the “small” businesses? The A&P Loft development has not done well. How many times has the restaurant failed since the time that the first restaurant opened? Perhaps five times. Go look at the amount of space available for rent in the courtyard behind the pine bar due to the failure of the project and the economy. Everything from Dirk’s to Stonehenge and on the opposite side of the street is rented no matter how bad their sidewalks and pot holes in pavement. It is in need of repair. The city paid for the new sidewalks and beautiful intersection/crossings. But the businesses on the old end of Cloverdale are businesses that have been paying taxes for YEARS and what benefit did they get out of the Loft project?

  16. ANON says:

    The Jewelry shop on the east end is having a “Moving Sale” as they’ve already been given notice to vacate. As I understand it, they were on a month-to-month lease.

    Who else is vacating?

    • rhodesgrey says:

      The problem begins with destroying occupied rent space on the block.There are empty spaces suitable size for opening Irish Pubs or bars.
      The new owner wants a place to have a trash dumpster for a business that has not been approved to have a license to serve alcohol. Whatever Mr. Watson wants to do he and the Mayor will do
      It just seems more practical to present a plan to the city and have it approved before he starts bulldozing the rent paying tenants. If he wants to keep the quirky local’s there, he might give them an opportunity to rent some of the oh so trashy, antiquated, roof leaking, bad side walk, antiquated space that he just purchased for $560,000.00 bucks.
      Really… all needs to be demolished (joke) because the buildings have not been maintained by the previous owner. The buildings are in terrible condition. Perhaps Dr. Bonner and Mr. Watson can the the old antiquated building at the top of the hill where Dexter Avenue ends and build a cool obelisk type building there with several floors of bars and space for rent to the state , and maybe put a golf course on all of the grass that they would have. They could take out the Archive building too, because we do not need it…we have and are obliterating everything historic in Montgomery.
      In the name of Mrs. Muncaster and Mrs. Crenshaw, speak your mind. Or forever loose your peace.

  17. Jeremy says:

    I have lived most of my existence on this earth in 3 places, Capitol Heights, Downtown and Cloverdale. I consider these places harbingers of culture and entertainment in Montgomery. These are places where the most creative and inspiring minds of our city give their very lives for the betterment of all Montgomery and its citizenry. Unfortunately, the arrogant and selfish attitudes of most in Cloverdale, snip and denigrate any “outsiders” that only seek to create a better city for us all. These “outsiders” are your fellow citizens, making an honest effort for growth.
    It takes a lot more than sitting on some board, or two, or gossiping in a Cloverdale haze at 1048, to say you are making efforts to strengthen your civilization. Lets not justify inaction with claims of mere talk. Instead of highlighting the problems of development, maybe we could all be more civil and find creative solutions.
    I don’t understand how filling an empty store front is bad. I also find it appalling that the biggest problems mentioned here are parking and garbage.
    More traffic is a good thing. Cloverdale is one of the few business districts with a village mindset in our city. Just leave your vehicle at the park and walk. There seems to be ample parking all the way down East Fairview, as well as ample laziness amongst its patrons. Also, the increased refuse is only an indicator of increased production. We should definitely get upset about increasing sales or services! For goodness sakes, if parking is going to be that much of a problem, you all might just avoid the looming garbage apocalypse you fear so much.
    Cause and effect. When we built Leroy last year at this time, we had all the local bar owners harassing us and trying to bring us down as we worked for next to nothing throughout countless evenings to bring that wonderful establishment into fruition. How has that bar worked out? Despite all the flack and trash talk we got from the skinners and gurneys of Cloverdale about all the same concerns you guys reiterate here again, Leroy makes it a better place!
    If you would all just embrace positive business growth, the free market economy that makes our way of life so grand, and creative business concepts, you chicken little’s out there will all see the sky ain’t falling on you. You will see the sky is just getting a little brighter for us all.
    Also, before you start calling a place like the Aviator BAR a cookie cutter idea, you need to go check it out. There is nothing else out there like it and it is a phenomenal experience that highlights the important history of flight and our local impact on aviation. If that is a cookie cutter bar, and you think 1048 isn’t, you need to re evaluate your standards a bit.
    I have given a decade of my life to Cloverdale, and still feel like a cap heights punk stranger by most snooty Cloverdalians. Why can’t we all just be Montgomerians and support growth as one united populace throughout our city?

    My name is Jeremy Freakin Adams and I approve this freakin message.

    Here is a link to an article written by the wonderful Sandra Nickel that you all should read concerning a Cloverdale business owners view of the traffic problem. All the haters should take a moment to read this beautiful article and take the opportunity to open your minds. Here is “The Joy of No Place To Park”, by Ms. Nickel

  18. ANON says:

    I wish Mike Watson would buy the George Mathews – owned properties, too!

  19. rhodesgrey says:

    OK. Anon… got your wish HE bought the strip in an LLC group. HE has not paid his employees in the last two months or more. He owns several properties that HE wants to turn into bars. He, to the best of my understanding is on the brink of distress. Youtry to call him on the phone….a service answers and they are not in the state of Alabama, to the best of my ability at trying to understand their accents. They do not know that his father’s name was M,,,y, nor his Mother’s name was

  20. Mike says:

    Well said Jeremy. For what it’s worth, I’m a resident here and I too see the value in bringing vibrant businesses to our neighborhood. The businesses in our area are what make us special and set us apart from the rest of the boring places to live around Montgomery. That helps our neighborhood appeal and ultimately our property values, something I think any homeowner in the area should appreciate.

  21. anonymous says:

    Any news out of the strip?

    Has the jewelry store closed? When does the Bagwell lease expire? Is this shoe repair shop safe? Is the salon doing well since the change from Fronduti’s?

  22. ANON says:

    Graham Woods Neighborhood Pub
    1048 East Fairview Avenue
    Opening Late Spring

    • Outsider lookin' in says:

      I am new to Montgomery. I have also recently moved to the Cloverdale area. I’ve read, with alarm, this pretty disturbing commentary against new business and investment in a commercial strip that all of you, to a one, agree has been neglected. From what I have learned of Mr. Watson, he is someone who has invested with a vision to help revitalize a downtown that was abandoned and left for dead by it’s citiizens. I’ve been to the new Aviator Bar a couple of times–there is nothing like it out there–and am impressed by the creativity that went into it. It attracts attention, and generates foot traffic, and helps take the downtown another step toward being a showcase southern gem. If Mr. Watson has purchased that strip on Fairview I think you can count on him investing further to renovate the buildings, lobby city leadership to make repairs to the public infrastructure, and make the area attractive to people who might actually spend some money. I guess the downside is parking and trash pick-up could be more challenging….that sucks.

      • Cosmas says:

        Look you’re new to the area. That’s fine the point is the Five points area is vibrant except for a few old shops. They don’t need another bar really they don’t. I applaud his work in downtown, but all he makes is more bars with their different gimmicky themes. Downtown seriously needs a ton of retail space that is not restaurants and bars. It won’t happen with only 1 store, as we unfortunately saw with Southern Trails that didn’t make it. It needs to be many at once to set downtown as not only a decent night scene, but also a good place to go shopping. Downtown needs a publix, needs apparel, and needs a good electronics store etc. It doesn’t need another restaurant or bar really.

  23. JC says:

    That LevelBAR is/was an actual real idea is abhorrently shocking, and I have no choice but to question the sanity of anyone who would try to make it reality.

  24. ANON says:

    I suspect it was a joke.

  25. Snotty says:

    As a man w/ Scottish family roots and an Irish wife I’m not sure how clear I am on all this; it’s an Irish public house named after a Scotsman where they advertise Scotch-whiskey, but not Guiness and are aiming for the title of what? “Most Irishy Bar in Town” though it’s not in any predominately Irish area and has a Scottish clan tartan and family crest in the sign? Yea, I’m lost, but it sounds to me as if their marketing guy is banking on people’s ignorance here…

  26. Snotty says:

    Walked my hound-dog past there today whiles in my kilt, got plenty of looks (as usual) maybe the pub will help liven folks-up a bit, The Tilted Kilt in Birmingham does well, I hear…

  27. anon says:

    The business will be named after William Graham, the first mayor of Cloverdale who founded it in 1819. Cloverdale was originally known as Graham’s Woods. The pub’s logo is the badge of the Graham Clan of Scotland.

    The plan is to gut the inside of the space where the jewelry store was, but keep the exterior bricks and add windows to the east wall. The area will have skylights, ceiling fans, window walls for ventilation and access to a rooftop bar.


    I’m eager to see the finished product.

  28. KB says:

    Thank goodness for another bar! We are running short on places to drink in Cloverdale. Besides, the Fitzgeralds would have been proud or in a puddle of their own drank.

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