BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Running a restaurant can be challenging. Running a restaurant in 2020 was even harder. But, imagine being a first time restaurant owner through the start of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic fallout. Many have struggled to stay afloat.
One year after the first COVID-19 case was discovered in Alabama, two local restaurant owners are reflecting on the challenges they’ve faced and overcome.
“COVID, you know, helped me to shape my kitchen in the way that I wanted. (It) helped us out to be a little bit more open minded,” said Marco Butturini, owner of Le Fresca. “For me, being in the business for so long, it was like ‘OK, it’s time to get to work.'”
Butturini is a familiar face in the Birmingham food scene. He spent decades working for Frank Stitt at numerous restaurants before starting his own last February, just days before health orders were put in place and he was forced to temporarily close.
Just across 2nd Avenue North in Birmingham is Aviné, a new wine bar and retail shop opened by Gray Maddox and Ashley Tanner. They, too, worked in the Stitt Restaurant Group before going out on their own with this venture. Aviné opened in December.
“I’m a first time business owner. So, that’s been difficult in itself. But, through the pandemic, we’ve been extremely fortunate,” Maddox said.
Maddox’s wine bar is open seven days a week, from noon until midnight. He hopes it will be a popular spot for wine connoisseurs.
“We’re also very fortunate to be on a block where we know all of the business owners. We’ve known each other for at least 25 years,” he said added.