Best Weekend Party Spot Shifts Down South Railroad to Eighth & Rail

Rail-AwardIs it just me, or has Downtown Opelika’s Eighth & Rail become the cities number one nighttime party place.  The past several weekends Friday and Saturday Nights are packed with a mix of younger (most are younger than me) and old gathering to meet friends, grab a drink or two and enjoy some of Mike Paterson’s Sushi or Cheesecake. The entertainment this weekend was exceptional with Larry Mitchel on Friday and the Krissy Andrews Band on Saturday. And if the beer seemed a bit colder this past weekend, it might be the upstairs coolers recently acquired from Auburn’s now closed Supper Club. Then Tiffany behind the bar is like no other bartender in the area! We love us some Tiffany!  There has certainly been a shift from what was big downtown to what is big now. Add to it, the fact you can grab dinner within a few steps of this South Railroad Tavern and you have the perfect meet before or after your meal. Of course they did win the “Best Night Spot” in the Reader’s Choice this year!   So, I guess I’ll see you their next weekend!

Parking Problem – What Parking Problem?

FullSizeRender (4)A recent post I made on Facebook has created a firestorm of controversy and finger pointing in the downtown community.  Now I don’t plan to quote a lot of what was said in my post and reactions of others, but I did want to summarize the concerns of some and what seem obvious solutions to ease parking when it gets busy downtown.

The restaurant with the best parking situation the past few years is probably Café 123. The staff parks in the rear and due to the hours when the Café is open, customers generally have plenty of room on South 8th Street and adjoining areas. Most business staff leave town around 5 PM and Café 123 opens at 6 PM. This utopia of parking will probably end with the opening of Zazu in October.

The general guidance for restaurant employees along South Railroad Avenue has been for them to park on North Railroad Ave.  However, most have moved away from that to park on Avenue A, 9th Street or the courthouse parking lot.  I spoke with one server that indicated she didn’t feel safe crossing the tracks to her car in the evening adding that her car had been broken into in the past.

I heard from several retailers that were upset because some local office workers parked in front of their shops taking customer parking. I suspect this will be a problem with a mix of retail and office spaces in the downtown. Someone smarter than me will have to fix that. Also heard comments about construction workers on 8th street taking spaces. I believe that is just part of progress in downtown. A tradesman isn’t going to park blocks from their vehicle that contains the tools they need to perform the work.

One restaurant complained about the closing of North Railroad for a Block party that made it hard for their customers to park and they saw a financial loss on those evenings.  I can see that and think that if logistics could be worked out, the closed block on 1st Avenue might be better for everyone.

Now if you own a building, have a one or two man shop working from there and have been parking in front of your building for 20 years, you probably don’t want to move.  I can see that too.

The city had discussed adding angle parking along South Railroad between 9th and 10th. It certainly needs to fix the angled parking that is there, since the spaces are a bit tight for today’s larger cars and trucks. That seems to have dropped off the radar for now.  The most obvious quick fix would be taking the large lot behind the Museum of East Alabama and doing something there.  I know they have some new board members and maybe something could be worked out with the city leasing for a set number of years.

There is that other thing. We have become a society of park in front and go inside.  We can’t really do that in downtown areas.  If you want that you’ll have the Outback’s and Longhorns of the world. But if you want some of the unique dining and shopping that is Downtown Opelika, then let just try to work this out.  If I circle the block a few times, does that mean I’m going somewhere else to eat, probably not?

Are their legal issues. If you require someone to park in a certain area, do you become responsible for their welfare?

Is there a solution? I would hope so. The answer isn’t childish notes left on the windshield of my truck. It’s not pointing out someone’s improper parking, when you are guilty of it too.  I’d recommend taking concerns to City Council and airing them during citizen communications. I know of at least two council members that have concerns like some of us. By the way, that picture of a very quiet South 8th Street was one day last week about 9:15 AM. The other a sawhorse blocking spaces for an expected motorcycle group.

Alabama “To Go” Beer Sales from Breweries Nearly Possible – Legislative Alert (Updated Post)

Before passage of the Gourmet Bottle Bill, Alabama was the only state that restricted the size of bottled or canned beer to no more than 16 oz. Starting in 2011, Free the Hops began introducing the Gourmet Bottle Bill to raise the limit to 25.4 oz.

On May 16, 2012, Governor Bentley signed the Gourmet Bottle Bill into law, and it goes went effect on August 1, 2012. This allows for many high-end, gourmet beers in Alabama that are only bottled in these larger container sizes. This legislation was also supported by Alabama’s rapidly growing brewing industry as well as the Alabama Wholesale Beer Association.

Now the Legislature is dealing with a bill to allow breweries, like Opelikas new Red Clay Brewery the ability to sell Beer in Growlers direct to the public. Here’s text from an alert from Free the Hops this morning. 

On Wednesday (5/13), the Brewery Job Bill – SB452 – proposed by the Alabama Brewers Guild passed unanimously out of the State Committee.  Next stop is passing the full Senate.  Let’s help the Alabama Brewers Guild get growler sales from the breweries!  Go to http://www.freethehops.org/legislative, enter your address to find your state senator, and tell him or her that you want them to support brewery jobs.

Alabama is the only state that prohibits to-go sales from the brewery or brewpub. SB452 would remove this restriction, allow a bare minimum of growler sales from the brewery, and allow Alabama breweries to compete fairly with the rest of the country. This will lead to new jobs, increased tourism, and new investment in Alabama.

While the local brewing industry has experienced rapid growth in recent years, Alabama is still ranked 50th in economic impact per capita from craft beer. If Alabama were to achieve 2012 national averages, it would add roughly $284 million to state GDP and create nearly 2,500 full-time jobs (PDF). SB452 will not create 2,500 jobs by itself, but removing this unfair restriction on the local brewing industry is a necessary first step.

Free the Hops has asked members to help remove Alabama’s unfair restriction on growler sales from the brewery or brewpub and help  grow craft beer in Alabama!

Telephone calls have a big impact on politicians. If you can, please call your senator’s office on Monday and leave a brief message of support for this important job creation bill in addition to any other messages you send.

Call your senator, then send an email as followup, asking him/her to vote YES for SB452.

The Move to “The Round House” is This Week!

Round House BuildingThis week is “Moving Week” for my work office. It’s actually the official move of several into the new co-work space in downtown Opelika called The Round House.  Several of the group are talented people I have known from the Opelika area for years, others will be new faces with a variety of skills.  My move will probably be later in the week as I wait for a new desk to arrive. Instead of a work station, I’m thinking of it as a new “Productivity Station”. It will be my first ever stand up desk. Having tracked my activity over the past 18 months with a Jawbone bracelet, I know that sitting at a desk just kills my movement and activity each day. It should be fairly easy to see the difference within the first few weeks. My online research tells me that I’ll benefit from a standing desk in many ways from productivity to better health. I’ll have some analytics for you at the end of January.   I’ve included an outside picture of this old warehouse next to the renovated depot in downtown. That first large door is the entrance. Inside, I’d say is an old industrial look. Windows that open from several small offices into a common area are from old since demolished buildings. The One GIG” internet is powered by the City of Opelika fiber service. More later as the Adventure and Social Experiment continue!

Opelika’s Irish Bred Pub Closes

Pub ClosesToday marks the end of Sunday business for the Irish Bred Pub in Opelika. It becomes a six days a week restaurant and bar when it opens on Monday. They posted this announcement on their Facebook page.
“In order to provide our employees a day to rest, relax and worship as they please, the Irish Bred Pub will be closed on Sundays beginning January 4th, 2015.”

Several downtown Opelika Restaurants remain open to server locals including The Breezeway, Jimmy’s, Jefferson’s and Niffer’s On The Tracks! The latter three with full bars as well.

Three Things You Might Like Too

Apparently, I am in the mood to create list.  I always find myself in front of the computer for personal reasons this time of year. So I was wondering what Top 3 Things I was a part of that you might be interested in. These are things I use almost daily. And after seeing the, you’ll see they are all different.
Amazon_PrimeAmazon Prime: I’ve been a Prime fan for several years, since when the annual fee was $79, which is now $99. Don’t tell Amazon, but I’d probably pay more. Now if you never purchase from Amazon, then it’s not for you, but if you do as few as five purchases a year, then get Prime. So you get free shipping on your items if you take the two day option.  Heck, next day is only $3 if you really have to have it. If you select slow shipping, you can get a $1 Credit to your Digital account for movies and music or e-books. Speaking of the Digital account, there are tons of videos (TV & Movies), music and reading selections available for free with your Prime Membership. One other find this year for me as Amazon Smile. A small percentage of your purchase goes to a charity of your choice. Now I know it’s a small amount, but if you do enough shopping it adds up. Mine goes to the Food Bank of East Alabama.   PS: Amazon does Sunday delivery now via the US Postal Service.

LyndaDotComLynda.com: There always seems to be something that I wish I knew how to do better. Enter Lynda.com with an incredible selection of lessons covering most anything you can think of. Well, I haven’t checked it all, but everything I’ve needed has been there. Nice thing is you get a course completion certification which may be handy in your current or future job. On a recent performance evaluation I learned that the folks I work for like the fact that I’m always out there learning stuff. You can get the first month free and check out what’s there, then it goes to an auto renewing $25 per month. Currently I am working thru several courses on Google Ad Words and some tricks with Microsoft Excel that I didn’t know about.

LinkedInDotComLinkedIn: Are you on LinkedIn yet? LinkedIn isn’t just for when you are looking for a job, but it’s a great way to learn about others you may work with along the way.  Now maybe you are in a job and think you’ll never need this, but the ability to connect with other professionals and build credibility among your peers isn’t a bad thing at all. Plus, if you do go job hunting, you’ve got your resume built over time.  I use a companion app on my iPhone called “Connected” that checks my LinkedIn connections and alerts me of job anniversaries, birthdays and other things.

Co-Working – What Is It?

The last several weeks I’ve posted a few things about my planned move to a new working environment. The New Business Incubator in Downtown Opelika, The Round House, offers a place for talented people to work in the same space and share knowledge to learn from each other. I hope to gain some new insights in to various topics  and maybe share some things in Social Media I’ve picked up the past few years.  I’m sure I’ll have more to write in cmoing week on this Social Experiment of mine, but I found this short little video that explains why people make a move like the one I make this month.

Looking Back at Memorial Day Weekend in Opelika

Cottonseed_052314Typically, post on this blog should be advance of events to let you know they are coming, but unfortunately, I miss some along the way.  But better than a weather forecast before the weekend, I can tell you exactly what happened in the weather from the weekend now.  That being said, I had some thoughts about several events from the past few days worthy of comment.
First, the Rail City Criterion, an event for bike enthusiast that circled thru a small part of downtown on Saturday afternoon.  Anytime you go blocking off streets to traffic and parking, someone is probably going to complain. However, this past weekend was the perfect time for the event. I’m not sure another weekend all year would work as good. It was Memorial Day weekend and as the restaurants downtown can probably tell you, there were a lot of downtown regulars that were at the Lake or the Beach!  The event brought some new faces to Opelika, that will probably come back to enjoy what downtown has to offer in coming weeks and months. The after party for the race took place in the warehouses by the depot, recently purchased by Richard Patton and Friends.  I had never been inside, so checked out the venue that will be perfect for inside concerts long into the future.  Nice acquisition for the group and I look forward to future developments there.  First on their agenda is finding a suitable name for the venue.

Monday’s Memorial Day service at the City Hall location of the Veteran’s Memorial was well attended. Retired General Ron Burgess brought up an interesting fact about the flag on this day that honors those lost in service of their country. We all knew (me and most of my friends) that the flag flew at Half Mast for the day, but tradition calls for it to fly from the top of the flagpole beginning at noon. A fact that was missed by most others that flew Old Glory on Monday!  And General Burgess, Thanks for your service!

And about that flag fact. Did you know about that? Do I just live in a vacuum? Think more will bo on board with this next year? Leave a comment below folks!

Opelika’s Fiber to the House “I Like It!”

OpelikaPowerLogoI’ve been making lots of changes in my life the past few months. There’s the weight loss plan, which is more of a life style change than some plan to just lose weight, but more on that in another post. Three weeks ago, I Cut the Cable!  After review of my home television habits and phone usage, I dropped both of them and opted to just have high speed internet.  After all, I spend all day on the computer for work and it is essential.
Now I’m not one of those “Charter Communications Haters”, but I did make the move to the City of Opelika’s Fiber Network. Opelika Power Services offers all three, phone, internet and cable in a bundle with competitive pricing, but again for now, I just need the internet. For me the move was largely based on technology.  The Geek in me always wants to be on the leading edge and the City entrance to this landscape makes sense.  Opelika joins some pretty big named cities with fiber. The project should make Opelika a better choice for some business based on this fast communications portal.  I chose the “Lite Choice” plan with download/upload speeds of 30/15 MB. Not a part of the bundle, the price of about $45 a month is fair. Now, although I dropped cable TV, I didn’t trash my Big Screen. Using a Chromecast on my new fiber network, I can stream Netflix or movies from my computer. I’ve been consuming more content that way, as are a lot of folks.  I’ll probably write about the Chromecast over the holidays, as it has some pros and cons about it, but for now its fine for me.

TheBoxI waited to write this for my first bill to arrive, which did today. It’s plain and simple to understand and did not include any installation charges for the work done to get me up and running. And about that, it was pretty pleasant too. On Iron Bowl Saturday, someone from OPS stopped by to run the fiber from the pole across street to the house and setup the “Box”. On the following Monday, the installer came to setup the internet which included a battery backup system.  Both individuals were profession in both look and work completed.  After the installation, I launched my gadgets and found instant connection with our company network in Canada. In the past, I’ve always had issues when changing an ISP provider. But not this time.

In coming weeks the city will announce business pricing. I suspect it will be comparable to similar systems, but again, if you want the latest in technology, you should consider the city system.  I should probably mention that according to some that have the television offering, the picture quality is the best they have ever seen!