Tuscaloosa will soon have a new gathering spot for people of all ages to enjoy food and entertainment as the opening of The Venue Tuscaloosa draws near.

Bryan Finison, owner of the soon-to-come entertainment spot says the doors for the space are expected to open in the next few weeks as the organizers navigates the final steps to complete the project.

The Venue Tuscaloosa will feature an ice cream shop with a drive-thru, full-service pub and five restaurants.

Finison said many of the building features, including wood throughout the facility and door-turned windows, were repurposed from a home in Southern Living. Several tables in the outside eating area were also repurposed from a former Tuscaloosa staple.

"Some of our tables are from Leland Lanes Bowling Alley built in Alberta City in 1953," Finison said. "We'll have about 30 of these tables. Some of them will be 10 to 12 feet long and some are smaller. This is another part of community of the history Tuscaloosa."

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Liza's Sweet Shop, which is named after Finison's daughter, will feature ice-cream, smoothies and anything for people with a sweet tooth.

(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)

"All of the ingredients are as locally-sourced or family-related as possible. For example, we are using Mayfield Ice Cream. I am close with the Mayfield family, as I lived with the Mayfield's grandson in high school."

The ice cream shop will also include "over-the-top milkshakes," coffee-options and a drive-thru where customers can use a mobile app to place orders for pick-up before heading to their next destination for convenience.

Finny's Pub is full-service pub to get any spirit. The space will resemble a sports bar, with family decorations, including baseball bats from Finison's son, a basketball goal from a local family and autographed sports posters.

"We have a full liquor license," Finison said. "We want this to feel like a casual at-home place."

(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)

The owners will also have an exclusive energy drink entitled "LENGEND" which will come in an original and CBD-infused option. Finison said the brand has a separate line called "LEGEND Spirits" which is CBD-infused that comes in several varieties of flavors, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic options to create 'mock-tails.'

Finison said he plan to launch both brands nationwide with an area partner that is expected to compete with national brands, such as Red Bull and Monster.

"This is the birthplace of LEGEND," Finison said. "To see LEGEND, you would have to come here."

Restaurant Options

The Venue will have five restaurants that will all have counter service. Each restaurant has a separate entry, allowing the restaurants to have a stand-alone feel.

Finison has confirmed the opening of two of the restaurants: Old Chicago Eatery and Smokehouse Grill.

(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)

Old Chicago Eatery was inspired by trips the Finison family frequently take to the Chicago-area and will feature favorites of the Windy City, including pizza and Chicago-styled hotdogs. Smokehouse Grill will feature full-service hamburger and smoked meat grill options.

FInison said the remaining restaurants will be announced at at later date, noting that all of the restaurants are owned by The Venue and will have in-house created menus.

"They're not outside chains coming in," Finison said. "We have executive chefs that are creating those menus."

Fully-Functional Outdoor Entertainment Space

Finison said visitors can enjoy all of their food and drinks in the full outdoor eating space under the porches of the two buildings, as well as under their "Coca-Cola" tent that is sponsored by the brand, which also doubles as an event rental.

(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)

"The tent serves as a primary place for folks to eat," Finison said. "The tent is available to be reserved if someone would like that. One of our big things is that we're here to serve the community and we're not going to close down the facility for a full rental. We will always be open for your family to come and enjoy without a reservation."

The outdoor space features a stage where the facility will have live music, event nights throughout the week and other forms of entertainment. The space will also serve as a "hangout spot" where patrons can mingle for date nights, birthday parties or casual gatherings.

Finison said he wants this atmosphere to be welcoming for patrons of all ages to come and enjoy everything the Venue has to offer.

"The goal is to enjoy ice-cream, the spirits, the food and take it outside and enjoy yourself. This a fully enclosed facility and being that it is fully enclosed, the important part of that is that it's family-friendly. We want to make sure that for any age, it's appropriate so that parents can come and enjoy whatever they want, whether it's just to take the family out to dinner and a four-year-old can walk outside and they're not going to slip out of the space."

"Fulfilling a Need"

Constructions has been on-going on the property for two years, Finison said, and the design phase has been a year in the making. Finison states the company are adding the finishing touches to the facility and should be open within the next two to three weeks.

Finison said several constraints, including the COVID-19 pandemic, affected some of the process, but he states they are excited to debut the space to local residents and visitors to come.

Finison said The Venue will be filling a need he recognized was vital to the families in the area over 15 years ago while raising their four children, who said they constantly faced the dilemma of having a place to socialize and gather.

(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)

"When we were going to a group event, there were always three to four families somewhere and you know what it's like to go to a restaurant and say 'we need to sit 12' and the hostess just looks at you and it's very difficult," Finison said. "We wanted to solve that problem and make that easy for families and groups."

Finison also wanted to add more local restaurants to the area so that local economy can continue to thrive.

"This area is continuing to grow," Finison said. "The community here wants to be able to support local and eat local. National franchises are great, but local folks like to eat local. Buying locally helps build your community. It keeps the funds, the revenue inside your community which helps build out your community."

The Venue Tuscaloosa is currently hiring for various roles, including cooks, cashiers, servers, bartenders, and special event-related positions.

"We're always looking for great folks," Finison said. "This is an evolving company that is growing and as we continue to expand, we will be a large employer of various, different full-time and part-time roles, special events," Finison said. "We got a need for a lot of different folks, from high-schoolers all the way to retirees."

The Venue Tuscaloosa is located at 6052 Watermelon Road, right next to Tree House Farm and Nursery, which is also owned by Finison.

Stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for updates on addition restaurant and retail developments happening in and around the Druid City.

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