The Alcove International Tavern was voted one of the best college beer bars in America by Men’s Health magazine, and for students who enjoy the bar’s laidback atmosphere, it is easy to see why.
Chad Smith, owner of the Alcove, said he has tried to set his bar apart from the typical college bar scene by giving it a small, cozy feel instead of a big venue, party feel.
This cozy scene is what appeals most to some students, such as Zachary Ponds, a senior majoring in geography.
“It’s more of a relaxed bar,” Ponds said. “It’s a little bit quieter, so you can have a conversation. It is not like a rave party going on where you have to yell at the person next to you.”
The interior décor helps to contribute to the overall atmosphere of the tavern, as well. All the artwork is imported from Peru, there are international instruments hanging on the walls, it is a smoke-free environment with a wide selection of beers and there are no neon signs.
Smith said having a smoke-free bar fills a role in Tuscaloosa, and because the bar is smoke-free, he can put up nice artwork without fear of it getting ruined. But the back patio serves as a smoking area, so there is still something for everyone.
“The people who go there are like-minded,” Ponds said. “They’re just chill people who like good music and good beer.”
Smith said he created the bar with the idea that open-minded, worldly people could come together and brush shoulders.
“They can get along because they are mature,” he said. “Some people say there aren’t people like that, but I say that’s not true. They come out of the woodwork here.”
The Alcove appeals to the students, young professionals and older clientele, as well.
“I like the Alcove a lot,” Rowdy Spradling, a junior majoring in criminal justice, said. “It is totally awesome, rad and chillax.”
Spradling said he enjoys that the bar has a generally older demographic.
“Sometimes it’s good to be around wise, older people,” he said. “For life wisdom, the Alcove never lets me down.”
Smith decided to open the Alcove International Tavern about two-and-a-half years ago, when he returned to Tuscaloosa and realized there were not many bars geared towards young professionals. He saw a niche that was not currently being filled at the time, and he decided to fill it.
“I like to take what I call calculated risks,” Smith said. “I listened to what the word on the street was and found out what people were looking for. I saw a chance that I could really make this work.”
Last fall, Alcove International Tavern won Best Beer Selection and Best Bar for Adults according to Tuscaloosa Magazine. It was one of the only businesses to win two categories. Garden and Gun featured the Alcove as one of their “choice watering holes in the South.”
Smith said some things are obviously working, and people were feeling compelled to talk about it.
“I was definitely impressed and surprised when I found out, since we’ve only been open about two-and-a-half years,” Smith said when he heard about the Men’s Health’s article. “Only 20 or so places were chosen, so to be one of those 20 was pretty wild.”