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When the golden scissor cut through the red Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama ribbon, visible relief ran over Gary McGee's face.

As he celebrated the opening of Urban Bar & Kitchen with a subtle fist pump, it symbolized overcoming a tough year for the restauranteur.

In an exclusive interview with The Tuscaloosa Thread, McGee said ever since he had to close the Levee Bar & Grill back in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been eager to the back into the restaurant industry.

"It's just an amazing feeling," McGee said Monday. "This has truly been a labor of love to get this place open. Of course, with anything you do in life in general, there is going to be a hiccup. They pushed the project back a little while, but we were still able to open up at a good time for us."

With the new brick and mortar finally open, McGee was able to reunite with some of his co-workers from the Levee, including Grover Ryans, the co-owner of UBK.

"This is the reason why I wanted to get back into the restaurant industry, it was for them not for me," McGee said. "If I had left this industry and went on to do whatever I wanted to do with the rest of my career, I would have been fine. But when people started reaching out to me and say 'hey man if I'm gonna do this industry, I want to do it right, and doing the right means working for you.' I'll open these doors back up to those people."

Along with opening the doors to a brand new restaurant, McGee said that cutting the ribbon was made extra special by being held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"It gives me chills just thinking about all of the things that Dr. King stood for, and for us to be able to open our doors in downtown Tuscaloosa," McGee said. "After so many years of our people being oppressed, and for the opportunities to be afforded for us to be able to do this, we couldn't be more happy about it."

For more information about Urban Bar & Kitchen, check out their website or follow their Facebook page.

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