BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- An investor opening five World of Beer franchise locations in Alabama said the first could appear in Birmingham by the end of August, now that a lease has been signed.
Rayford Cook, the operations manager and vice president for the company planning the Alabama locations, said a group of eight investors is planning to open three franchise locations in Birmingham and the other two in to-be-determined locations such as Huntsville, Tuscaloosa or Auburn. Along with Cook, another investor is Birmingham businessman Ward Drennen, whose family last year sold its century-old auto dealership in Hoover.
Cook will attend a Birmingham Design Review Committee meeting this morning at which drawings of the renovation plan and the bar's sign will be considered. Ralph Schuler of JVB Architect is listed as the project architect.
Cook, who moved to Birmingham in December, said the bar in Five Points South will offer around 50 beers on tap and as many as 600 bottled varieties The establishment won't serve food, but will allows patrons to carry in food from other restaurants. It will be 3,200 square feet of space, along with an outdoor patio and courtyard space.
World of Beer will be located at 1005 20th St. South and have live music three to six nights a week. The space it will occupy has been vacant for at least six years, since the former Halfshells Oyster Bar & Grill closed.
Cook said progress made by Alabama beer consumer advocacy groups such as Free the Hops, a grassroots organization that backed legislation to boost maximum beer alcohol limits, and the growing number of local craft beer brewers have helped to make the timing right for World of Beer.
"It's a great opportunity to be coming into Alabama, just because of the (beer) movement and all the change in laws that haven't been changed for many years," Cook said.
The investment group began its planning for the World of Beer location in November. Cook moved to Birmingham with aspirations of starting his own restaurant, after working as managing partner at Bonefish Grill in Frederick, Md., for eight years. Before that, the Marion native worked as a bartender at Outback Steakhouse in Birmingham and as a beverage and hospitality manager at Red Lobster in Jacksonville.
The opportunity presented by the World of Beer plan seemed right, he said.
"It's such a great opportunity in something I care about, with craft beers and music," he said. "I had to hop on board. I felt like it was fate."
As part of his training for the new venture, Cook was sent to Tampa, the headquarters of World of Beer, for a training program, where he learned about beer styles, the brewing process, history, names and ingredients. Two weeks was spent in a classroom, and the other three in a World of Beer location in Ft. Myers.
The company, founded in Tampa in 2007, has 24 locations, mostly in Florida.
The World of Beer in Five Points South will be located just blocks from The J. Clyde, a well-established bar and restaurant that boasts a large number of beers on draft and in bottles.
Cook thinks there is room for both.
"Business brings business and awareness to our movement in craft beers," he said. "I think we'll have a shared business and both will be able to do well."
Retail Specialist broker Bill Clements, the Alabama leasing agent for World of Beer, said he believes the bar is a good fit for Five Points South.