Oxford American takes an intimate look at Birmingham’s Atomic Lounge

Birmingham
Atomic Lounge and Bar. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

What is it like to hangout at Birmingham’s Atomic Lounge around 1:34 in the morning?

The acclaimed southern literary magazine, Oxford American, answers that question, with an intimate story about Atomic Lounge and owners Feizal Valli and Rachael Roberts, titled “Social Engineering.”

Published in the Summer 2019 edition, Oxford American writer John Edge provides a colorful glimpse into one of the Magic City’s most popular and quirkiest cocktail lounges.

Edge delves into the meaning of all the costumes:  the famous Sgt, Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band Album cover -like mural of prominent Birmingham citizens, the Hollywood Squares–style assemblage of Warhol-inspired portraits of Atomic’s regulars, and the customer inspired cocktails.

Movers & Shakers
Know what is especially hip? The Atomic Lounge. I’m a professional temporary tattoo-er here.
Hollywood Squares–style assemblage of Warhol-inspired portraits of Atomic’s regulars. Taken in 2018. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Personal Story of Feizal and Rachael

Atomic Lounge Birmingham
Atomic Lounge Rachael Roberts and Feizal Valli. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

In addition to the stories about the atmosphere inside the Lounge, Edge provides readers a glimpse into the passion and joy married owners Feizal and Rachael, bring to Atomic Lounge everyday.

An excerpt from the Oxford American story that captures the passion:

“When they married (Feizal and Rachael) in Las Vegas in 2016, he dressed as Elvis. And she dressed as Priscilla. After the ceremony, Rachael and Feizal walked the streets, high-fiving strangers. When they opened a bar together, they bought costumes for their customers to wear. It wasn’t a goof. It was an extension of their aesthetic.

Costumes transform their bar into a theatrical production, Feizal said to me that day in the jungle room. “You watch someone put on a Big Bird suit and then you ask, what will the Big Bird do? You give two banana costumes to two guys and then stand back to watch what happens. Pretty soon the dude at the bar in the banana costume sees the dude in the booth in the banana costume. They hug. And they start buying each other drinks.”

On Newsstands

Birmingham, Alabama, The Atomic Lounge, James Beard Semifinalist
Photo via The Atomic Lounge’s Instagram

Atomic Lounge is no stranger to national recognition.  For two years running, the place has been named a James Beard semi-finalist for best bar program.

We highly recommend Oxford American which can be found at newsstands at all the local Books-a-Million stores in the Birmingham area.

A fantastic magazine with southern flair – once again, don’t miss their feature about Atomic Lounge in the Summer 2019 edition.

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.