by Lee Weyhrich
CLAY — A new restaurant at McEnally’s Mercantile has been approved for on-premises alcoholic sale. Cahaba Oaks Cafe Bar and Grill has been part of the plans for the Mercantile since the beginning, owner Kim Steffey said.
At the hearing held before the vote, three area residents spoke in favor of the new restaurant at the hearing, and no one spoke against it. The council voted unanimously to grant permission for the restaurant to serve alcohol.
The consensus among the speakers seemed to be that everyone was excited about the possibility of a new restaurant and what it could mean for the area. The restaurant will serve Southern favorites for dinner, as well as local beers, and will have seating for up to 90 guests. Once the restaurant is established, they will begin serving breakfast and lunch on the weekends, owner Kim Steffey said.
City manager Ronnie Dixon did warn that the owners would have to find the right balance in order to meet the zoning and licensing requirements for a pub or restaurant within the City of Clay. Only 40% of all gross sales at the establishment can be alcohol, the rest must be food. He said it would take work to find the right balance when the sale of a reasonably priced biscuit was weighed against the price of a premium cocktail.
“I get a report every 30 days,” Dixon said. “If within a 90 day period you do not reach that goal, you will not be classified as a pub/restaurant, you will be classified as a bar, and we would have to go through a rezoning period. She would have to get a business license for a bar rather than a restaurant, and all of that stuff is classified under “adult entertainment.”
Steffy said the restaurant would be primarily geared towards families, with everything locally sourced if possible. Produce would even come from the Mercantile, which in-turn receives produce from local farmers.
Councilman Kevin Small, who has been a regular customer at the Mercantile since its opening, is looking forward to the restaurant, and encourages everyone in the community to support it.
“I hope that everybody who took time to come here tonight – everybody who wrote in on Facebook…it is time for us to support a business that is in Clay and there are a lot of great things there,” Small said.
He added that he hoped the widespread support from the community on Facebook, as well as the number of people attending Monday’s meeting in support of the bar and grill would translate into real-world support when the restaurant opened its doors.
“To all the people that this has been a talking point to, I hope that everybody is going to put their money where their mouth is, because I think this is going to be a great opportunity for us,” Small said.