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Runaway Coal Train, a Southern rock/bluegrass band based in Birmingham, performs at The Brick Deli & Tavern in Decatur. Co-owner Tina Hall said the venue's larger capacity has been great for attracting new bands as well as their old favorites.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Runaway Coal Train, a Southern rock/bluegrass band based in Birmingham, performs at The Brick Deli & Tavern in Decatur. Co-owner Tina Hall said the venue's larger capacity has been great for attracting new bands as well as their old favorites.

Brick's new house

By Danielle Komis Palmer
dpalmer@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

They waited ... and waited ... and waited some more.

For eight months, Decatur’s regular Brick crowd gave up its weekly dose of local bands, beer and banter when the bar tucked away in a downtown back alley burned. Recently, the regulars finally got what they had long awaited — a new, larger Brick a block away from the old one.

But since the place on East Moulton Street opened in June, employees and regular patrons quickly realized it was going to take time for the place to feel like home again. What once was a neighborhood bar had morphed into a nighttime hotspot that attracted more than the usual crowd.

While regulars can’t deny that The Brick Deli & Tavern has an improved traffic flow (capacity is now at least twice what it was) and beer flow (25 beers on tap versus 12), they tend to hesitate before telling you what they think of the new place. It’s the way a parent offers a compliment before they throw the dreaded “but ...” into a positive phrase. While regulars are optimistic the bar will soon feel like home again, many say the new Brick “just isn’t the same” yet.

Transition period

Candi Long, a regular who met her husband, Greg Long, at The Brick on Second Avenue, said she and her husband love the new Brick. However, patrons need to be patient and realize that it’s in a transition period, she said.

“It’s going to take time to know it again,” she said. “It’s starting over.”

Mike Robinson of Hartselle, who experienced the changeover from B.J.’s Deli to The Brick almost 10 years ago, said the transition was similar to the bar’s transition now, and was also difficult for regulars and employees.

Some attribute the change to a largely younger crowd who didn’t frequent the old place but probably saw the publicity The Brick received after it burned and were curious to check out the new place.

Fights

Perhaps because of the new crowd, several fights broke out in The Brick’s first week open — a problem few anticipated.

Tina Hall, co-owner of The Brick, said she and her staff (who almost all returned) weren’t initially prepared for the size of the crowd. New, unknown patrons seemed to think it was a nightclub rather than a friendly neighborhood bar, she said.

“We’re not that type of place,” she said. “People didn’t know you don’t act that way here.”

With more people in the bar, it’s more difficult to police the crowd and monitor the number of drinks they’ve consumed.

“We had to take everything up a notch,” she said. “The more people in here, the more chance for trouble.”

Fights, which continue to break out more often than they did at the smaller location, are quickly quelled by Brick employees. The troublemakers are immediately ejected from the bar with no exceptions, Hall said.

A new place

Aside from the now-waning crowd of Brick newbies and strangers who changed the atmosphere, others say the bar feels different simply because it looks different.

“It’s not a little cubbyhole in the wall anymore,” said Curtis Parker, kitchen manager.

Some regulars say they miss the homey feel of the old cave-like Brick, as well as the nooks and cubbies where people could settle in to chat and get away from the crowd.

The new location is more open and loud because of its concrete floor, brick walls, tin roof and wall of windows. However, 20 sound-absorbing panels were recently hung from the ceiling, and 20 more are on order to help reduce the noise, Hall said.

In about a month, the bar will also feature a new outdoor patio in the back of the building to accommodate smokers once the smoking ban is enacted Oct. 1, Hall said.

The music

While the many changes at The Brick have thrown some regulars for a loop, the bar’s well-known variety of live music Wednesday through Saturday has remained constant.

The bar is once again a hotspot destination for many local bands and musicians who loved to play at the old Brick.

Brad Long, bass player for Brick staple band Black Label, said the band had a tough time while the bar was closed.

“Them shutting down hurt us,” he said. “The only other place we play is Huntsville.”

When The Brick re-opened, they were ecstatic.

“It’s like coming home,” he said.

With the venue’s larger capacity, Hall said it’s been great for attracting new bands as well as their old favorites. Recently, 1980s cover band The Cheesebroker’s played to an elbow-to-elbow crowd for their first time at The Brick.

New memories

As The Brick’s music continues, more regulars return to their old favorite haunt, and as the newbies trickle out, things will soon be back to normal, Parker predicted. It’s human nature to be resistant to change.

“Everything’s got to change at some point,” he said. “They (regulars) will build their old memories here, too, and not hold onto their ones in the old place.”

Greg Long agreed.

“It’s starting to feel like the old Brick again.”

What’s on tap at The Brick?

Since opening its doors nearly three months ago, a new location has turned the neighborhood bar into a nighttime hotspot. Change was inevitable, especially after a fire in its original building. Patrons have mixed feelings about the venue, but the regulars are returning for the music and the company. It’s slowly beginning to feel like home again.

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