New Hookah Lounge, Restaurant and Bar Coming Soon to South Tuscaloosa
A new hookah lounge, restaurant and bar is coming soon to south Tuscaloosa after a somewhat surprising city council vote last week.
As the Thread previously reported, the seven-member city council is considering a moratorium on allowing any new bars to open through the end of this year to provide relief to the city's perpetually understaffed police department.
Still, on Tuesday night they gave a team of entrepreneurs permission to proceed with plans for the new CRU Lounge at 6571 Highway 69 South in Patriot Park where Lucy's Old Country Cooking did business before they relocated to Alberta.
Any bar looking to open in Tuscaloosa must first get conditional use approval from the council as well as a city-issued liquor license. They voted to grant both for the CRU Lounge last Tuesday against the wishes of Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley, who asked the council to deny the applications.
"We believe this is going to be a bar environment and it's going to stretch our resources even more," Blankley said. "It has a very large parking lot and if they're full inside, we believe it will overflow into the parking lot and we'll have issues there so the police department is heavily against this application."
Blankley's concerns were outweighed, though, by a convincing presentation from attorney Brad McGiboney, who specializes in alcohol licensing, and three partners who will be involved with opening and operating the CRU Lounge.
Allen Bailey, a representative for the CRU brand, said they already have locations in more than 30 U.S. cities including Birmingham, Atlanta and Montgomery.
Bailey said he is a graduate of Tuscaloosa County High and has already invested more than $120,000 and seven months' time to bring this brand home where he sees an opportunity for it to thrive.
McGiboney said food is not an afterthought in CRU Lounges, but a centerpiece - their menu features lamb chops, lobster mac & cheese and fresh salmon, not chicken tenders and handhelds. The owners vowed that food sales will be close to, if not more than, half of their business in Tuscaloosa.
"This isn't your typical lounge, club-type license, where you just going to have people buying alcohol only," McGiboney said. "We have food, we have a full kitchen and we will be required, per our lease agreement, to sell at least 40 percent food."
McGiboney also said the owners who will run the Tuscaloosa CRU Lounge, Ladarrin Kennedy and Andrea Campbell, have previous experience in law enforcement and will make sure it is a safe, secure environment that does not draw undue resources away from the police department.
They have a maximum capacity of less than 70 patrons and Campbell said they will do whatever it takes to keep those guests in line.
Ultimately, the council voted 6-1 in favor of allowing CRU to open a bar/tavern and unanimously granted their liquor license. Councilman John Faile was the only councilperson to vote against the first measure.
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