Birmingham restaurants brace for worst amid power outage

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Overnight storms knocked power out for tens of thousands of people across the Birmingham metro area, leaving businesses bracing for a difficult day Thursday.

Matthew Statham said he woke up to phone calls that there was no power at the restaurant he runs, Saw’s BBQ, in the heart of Birmingham’s popular Avondale neighborhood.

Almost all of Avondale lost power Thursday morning, ahead of what was expected to be a big day for for the many restaurants there; crews were setting up for an evening concert at Avondale Brewing Company, and Statham planned to donate 10 percent of his evening proceeds to local charities.

“It’s kind of surreal, almost. You just get so dependent on having power in the morning, then you walk in, there’s no hood, there’s no lights, there’s no anything, and you can’t really get an answer,” Statham said. “It’s a little frustrating.”

Statham and his staff spent the morning cooking all of their meat to prevent it from spoiling right away, in hopes that he’d be able to sell it once the power came back.

“We just start to count down and hope that we get refrigeration or heat at some point,” Statham said.

Managers at other restaurants, like Rowe’s Service Station, sat out front and begrudgingly turned shipments of food away.

Others, however, were more fortunate.

“Pizzas come out of the wood fire (oven), which is our signature thing,” said Randall Norman, the general manager at Post Office Pies. “Fortunately, we’ll be able to do that.”

Still, Norman said his staff was in “scramble mode” Thursday morning, making sure food remained at a safe temperature and using the wood ovens to boil water.

Norman planned to open Post Office Pies with a limited menu, since a lack of refrigeration would make salads unsafe and beers too warm to serve.

Norman said his biggest concern was that the lack of electricity would make for an unsuitable dining atmosphere and drive customers away.

“It deters people when they come in the door,” Norman said. “It’s hot, there’s no music, there’s little atmosphere… Hopefully we don’t lose more than half of our lunch business.”

Power was restored to the Avondale area around 11 a.m., just before the lunch rush, and when Saw’s typically opens.

Saw’s opened 30 minutes later. A crowd of customers was already waiting at the door.

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