Workshop aims for more restaurants
Monday, June 27, 2005
KELLI HEWETT TAYLOR
News staff writer
The people are here, now it's time to feed them.
Operation New Birmingham is spotlighting the next piece of the downtown improvement puzzle: More downtown restaurants.
Today, the downtown improvement agency is hosting a half-day workshop at The Harbert Center, focusing on starting a restaurant. What's Cookin' Downtown! will feature area and national restaurateurs, who will discuss fostering new restaurants and the roles eateries can play in revitalizing communities.
"I think it's invaluable what a restaurant can bring to a neighborhood," said Ti Brennan Martin, co-owner of the New Orleans restaurant Commander's Palace, one of that city's top eateries. "But they need a lot of support."
Martin said restaurant owners can't be cut-throat toward each other. They must remember that neighborhood success helps everyone, she said. Residents have to contribute by eating at fledgling restaurants in the area. City and civic leaders need to invest in marketing and promotion.
New downtown restaurants, such as Surin & Co., G, and Cafe Dupont, aren't enough to anchor the community with its influx of residents, Operation New Birmingham leaders say. Nor are there enough to make downtown the dining destination of, say, Five Points South.
"We are very keen on additional restaurants," said Mike Calvert, president of Operation New Birmingham. "This workshop is aimed at attracting people to Five Points and Lakeview, as well as downtown."
Local restaurant impresarios such as Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar & Grill in Five Points South, George Sarris of The Fish Market in Southside and Guillermo Castro of Los Angeles in Lakeview, will share their secrets at the workshop.
Other speakers will discuss the basics of running a restaurant, from health inspections to code details.
"From the influences of people like Frank Stitt in this town, food and wine have grown dramatically over 10 years," said Kevin Moore, general manager of the new Satterfield's restaurant in Cahaba Heights. He plans to attend today's workshop. "I think people enjoy the diversity that is starting to crop up."
Moore said he and owners Tommy and Becky Satterfield want to learn all they can from the successes of others.
Downtown residents say they love the emphasis on more downtown eating choices.
"There was no dining scene 16 years ago," said Virginia Reckoff, a longtime downtown resident. "We all want more choices, and I am definitely in favor of the local and independent restaurants being added to the community. The more variety there is, the better."
For more on the What's Cookin' Downtown! workshop, visit www.yourcitycenter.com.