The Layover Gets a New Door

By on 17 September, 2014 in Bars, Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

We’ve long been vocal boosters of the Montgomery airport. Our local airport is close to our house and offers cheap parking, an easy check-in process, small-to-nonexistent security lines, free wireless access, plenty of plugs and comfy chairs (some of which are of the rocking variety). Sure, there are only a few airlines to choose from and a handful of available direct destinations, but you can get basically anywhere in the world from Atlanta, Dallas or Charlotte. Besides, few flights means no giant crush of people — just a leisurely stroll to one of six gates. Food options aren’t ideal, but you shouldn’t be going to the airport to eat anyway. There’s a Subway and a coffee shop and for five years there has also been a cozy bar, of which we are quite fond. The Layover is the name of this bar, and it has become a fixture for folks who want a cocktail or a beer. There’s just been one small hitch: Until just a few weeks ago, you had to get your drink before you went through security. We’re pleased to say that’s no longer the case – The Layover’s now only accessible after you’re screened by TSA. And this is a good thing.

Even if you don’t drink alcohol (and we’re sure you have valid reasons), an airport bar is an important thing – a place to sit with a beverage at a table for work or reading, perhaps with a television to catch up on news or sports. An airport bar can provide a little noise, a little life, a little human connection in an otherwise sterile atmosphere of travel zombies shuffling from one city to the next, usually staring at phones and tiny computers.

To understand the significance of the Layover’s new renovations, you have to first appreciate what it was like before, when the entrance was on the “public” side of the TSA checkpoint. This layout meant that you could look through giant glass windows into the terminal, but couldn’t access the gates. This meant that people who didn’t know better would (quite reasonably) expect that they could clear security and then go get a drink.

For years, I watched with amusement as people walk past those giant glass windows, peering longingly into the bar that they could not access. Nearly every other airport in America has a bar near the gate area. Why not Montgomery? These sad travelers, often with delayed flights, would often pace back and forth in front of the windows, debating whether to exit the gate area and go back through security to be re-screened a second time. The business guys were often intent on sending a few emails over a beer, but were stymied by the inexplicable design of the airport.

What’s worse, frequent travelers don’t truly feel at ease until after getting through TSA. You never know what kind of delays you might encounter when standing in line behind the person that doesn’t understand that a giant metal belt buckle continues to set off the metal detector. Only after getting through security can you properly unwind enough to enjoy an adult beverage.

Now, with the entrance to the airport bar moved (and the previous entrance sealed), you can enter the secured zone near the gates, fully unwind, and order as many drinks from the Layover’s owner, Holly Peirce, as you can responsibly handle.

The change in door placement has made a huge difference for the business and its customers. “It’s been so great,” says Peirce. “I’ve seen customers doing a little jig, and even the TSA agents have told me stories about flyers’ enthusiasm. I find people are staying longer than they used to and enjoying our patio area and the television screens.”

The new door is only the first of several improvements to come to The Layover. Peirce plans to install more outlets and some screens on the windows to dim the sunlight a bit in the area outside the bar over by Gate 6. Already, she’s got a beer selection that rivals many bars in town, with plenty of Alabama beers in the mix. She sells snack food, and is looking into offering some bar food on occasion (something likely in the genres of nachos and popcorn).

Anyone who’s spent any time at The Layover will tell you that no matter how good the drinks are (and they are good and strong), Peirce’s friendly hospitality is really what makes it special. She’ll look up your flight and makes sure to announce when flights are coming in, when they’re delayed, and even when they’ve left Atlanta and are on their way. If you forgot a phone charger, she’s got a whole drawer of them she’ll let you borrow. She’s got her own wi-fi network, in case the airport’s wireless isn’t working right. And she even seems to have an astonishing memory for names, recognizing her regulars and making the place feel more like a neighborhood joint and less like a soulless airport bar.

Just one more reason to fly out of Montgomery, in our books – it’s close, cheap to park, and now you can sit out any delay with a cold drink and a good book.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with two cats, a dog, nine fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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