2012 1st Ave N.
Birmingham, Al 35203

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What Black Market Bar Says About Neighborhood Cycles

Image of Black Market Bar owners George Cowgill and Elise Younglood via AL.com

We’re used to cycles in life, to daily circadian rhythms and the more long-form evolution of a single human span. But like 100 Houses interviewee Chris Hatcher, we think neighborhoods go through those cycles too. There’s the old business trope of a local institution and its next generation successor, the son who takes over his father’s shop, for instance. But that cycle doesn’t have to stay within a literal family. Sometimes, the neighborhood is the family. That’s how we’re reading the news about Black Market Bar’s impending move, anyway.

We’ve talked about Black Market Bar before, about its wonderfully junk/punk vibe along with tasty burgers and trivia entertainment. But it’s about to be something more than a great neighborhood hangout. It’s about to be a success story worthy of epic poetry, or at least a testament to the power of place.

As home of The Mill, Five Points South’s northeast corner was iconic for folks who remember the neighborhood of the late nineties and early aughts. And AL.com’s Kelly Poe describes The Mill as “the longtime anchor restaurant of the district.”

Since The Mill’s closure, though, it’s site has been more of a restaurant revolving door. AL.com points to three incarnations of the restaurant (including a return to The Mill branding) before opening as MetroPrime in 2011. Even in a neighborhood of loyal followings, nothing really stuck.

But the new Black Market Bar location — mere blocks from its current spot — seems poised to work. After all, Five Points has fundamentally shaped owners George Cowgill and Elise Youngblood, who got their start working together at The Mill, Cowgill said on Facebook, along with several Black Market staffers. “It’s kind of a lateral move,” Cowgill told Poe, “but we inherit the patio. It’s going to solidify that we’re a restaurant as well as a bar.”

The move was not a long planned event but one driven by opportunity, Poe reported. The corner “has a lot more visibility and foot traffic,” Youngblood told her.

As our city neighborhoods are gaining more attention, the time is right for a new permanent anchor, and we can’t think of a better one. We like the  atmosphere of Black Market Bar and think it deserves the higher profile of the new location. Five Points South is a place of neighborhood institutions, after all, and Black Market Bar has the perfect local origin story.

“We’re sitting in a postcard right here,” Cowgill told Poe. “It’s full circle.”

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