Saying Goodnight to Sipsey Tavern

Tonight is the last night my favorite bar in Birmingham will be open for business. A couple of months ago, Red Mountain Development refused to renew Sipsey Tavern’s lease in the historic Terrace Court building on the corner of Highland Avenue and 12th Avenue South. And now the lease is up.

A year ago when I moved back to Birmingham, I found my home away from home at Sipsey Tavern. I became friends with the owner Matt Mauldin and his staff. I saw dozens of amazing bands there. My own new band made its debut there last January and has continued to play there regularly. I fell in love with a woman who lives in the apartments upstairs from the bar (at least until Red Mountain Development eventually kicks her out too, which is now inevitable and much more upsetting even than the bar’s closing… that will have to be another blog post). Almost everybody that has become my friend in the past year became my friend at Sipsey Tavern.

Sure, the service was sometimes slow, and they ran out of Guinness more often than they should have. But Matt and his crew worked extremely hard to make it a nice place and to bring customers in the door. They had the best trivia night in town, but people didn’t come out for it regularly enough so they canceled it. They booked some of the coolest bands in the area that you would probably never hear of otherwise. They struggled, but they were reportedly just starting to make money. It was the best kept secret it Five Points.

I’ve been there every night this week so far, drowning my sorrows in the Maker’s Mark that Ryan/Jay/Leslie/Jennifer almost always have poured for me before I even reach the bar stool. Last night I saw yet another great show with Piss Shivers, Necronomikids, and Red Mountain Family Band. I’ll be back tonight to see Motel Ice Machine, Ian Sturrock Memorial Pipe Band, Zach DossBrain Eaters, Renegades of Folk, and Jasper Coal. But mostly I’ll be there just to say goodbye one more time.

There are a lot of rumors about what Red Mountain Development has planned for the building, but I’m not going to speculate about it here, despite the evidence and plausibility of one of the more disturbing stories going around. But I do think it’s incredibly disingenuous at best that their website boasts, “Red Mountain Development believes there is more to long-term value than short-term profit. … we specialize in developing property responsibly.” And ironically, I guess, Terrace Court is listed right at the top as one of their flagship properties.

And the question now is, where are we all going to hang out now? Some will go to Stillwater Pub, others to the Upsidedown Plaza. Maybe a new bar will open up. Maybe eventually, Matt will open a new Sipsey Tavern at a different location (rumors of them re-opening in the Lakeview district are unfounded, according to Matt). But Five Points will not be the same after tonight.

Tonight we drink. Tomorrow we thirst.

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