New casual restaurant coming for iconic location

June 29, 2018

The new owners of a distinctive Birmingham restaurant location are determined to make sure it's not “three strikes, you're out,” as they received unanimous approval from the Birmingham City Commission at their meeting on Monday, June 25, for a special land use permit amendment and liquor license transfer to open Hazel Ravines & Downtown in the former Stand restaurant location at the corner of Woodward and Maple roads.

Planning director Jana Ecker said the new operators, Beth Houssey and Emmele Herrold, who had opened One-Eyed Betty's and Pop's Italian in Ferndale, “want to open a new establishment and want to make some design changes.”

Ecker noted that right now people enter an office building. Instead, they would like to seal off one of the entrances and make that lobby area an open air indoor dining area, with a grab-and-go market just inside where diners can eat in or outdoors, or just take bakery items and coffee and go. The kitchen and bar area will remain the same, but other indoor areas will be reconfigured.

“With regards to the outside, they are proposing to add a larger garden in the corner of Woodward and Maple, and they are proposing to fence it off and add a garden,” Ecker said. She said they would like to take off the awnings and add fabric in green with yellow signage. “They're trying to soften the site, to make it more inviting, more homey.”

A weathervane at the corner would add further signage. “It's an attempt to do public art and direct you to the (new) entrance on Peabody,” Ecker explained. She said the floor of the new open air dining area would be a colorful mosaic that would hold 22 seats.

The restaurant, which was  previously Zazio and The Stand, holds an economic development liquor license.

“One thing we want is success, and one thing I am concerned is that the name does not scream 'eating,' and unless people know it's a restaurant, we'll have another failure,” said mayor pro tem Patty Bordman.

“It's an interesting name,” explained Houssey. “I know, I have a history of interesting names. I have a successful restaurant named One-Eyed Betty. It has to do with neighborhoods in Birmingham. It's not a pretentious place – we want a 'come as you are' casual place. I had a photo album in my iPhone, and it said 'Hazel Ravines & Downtown,' where all three came together was right there. It named itself. Hazel will be the neighborhood place. Ravines will be the worldly location, and Downtown, what's trending now. It's casual fine dining. That will be on all of our marketing.

“Hopefully third time's the charm.”

“We had a lot of discussion of how to activate this location,” said designer Roman Bonislawski of Ron & Roman designers. “With The Stand, you couldn't look inside. It's a rather large and rambling space, and the way we've attacked the space and reworked it. With the Peabody-facing entrance and the  traveling market inside where you stop by and go on to work, it's truly intended to break down the barriers to anything elitist or fancy.”

“I'm excited to bring my food to Birmingham,” said Herrold. “There's a lot of great food here, but they're high end. We're not high end. We're comfort food, neighborhood.”

She described the first part of the restaurant as “meat and potato and wedge salad;” the second as “international, Spanish and French. The third part will be more adventurous, more trendy.”

Commissioners approved the special land use permit amendment and authorizing the local part of the liquor license transfer agreement, 6-0, with Mark Nickita not in attendance.

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