A look at the Upside Down Plaza, one of Birmingham’s oldest dive bars

The Plaza at its original location. Photo via Hahn’s Historic Birmingham on Facebook

The Upside Down Plaza—the best dive bar in Birmingham that no one ever went too. Or, at least wouldn’t admit to years later. We took a look at the history behind one of Birmingham’s oldest dive bars—here’s what we learned.

Discovering The Upside Down Plaza

Pat Byington had to “join” the Upsidedown Plaza (an archaic Alabama rule for places that sell alcohol after 2:00AM) which was fast and easy. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

Back in 2019, Bham Nower Pat Byington visited the Upside Down Plaza for the first time after reading a Mental Floss article that proclaimed it the “Best Dive Bar” in Alabama. The Plaza even made Cheapism’s top 30 Historic, Must-Visit Dive Bars Across the U.S.A.

The Upside Down Plaza has all the characteristics of a classic dive bar: reasonably-priced beer, pool tables galore, a real jukebox with music from every genre imaginable and an eclectic group of patrons ranging from college students to old-timers. Inside, the bar is decorated with murals of Vulcan and other Birmingham landmarks, not to mention the decades of signatures, stickers and old concert posters that add to the bar’s aesthetic.

The Plaza

Photo via Hahn’s Historic Birmingham on Facebook

“I never went to the Upside Down Plaza. I was at home studying 😉

In 1962, brothers Joe and T.C. Cannon founded their own dive bar at 2180 11th Court South, a small, circular building below the Highland Plaza Shopping Center. Although its official name was “Cannon’s Plaza” or simply “The Plaza”, its unofficial nickname drew from its distinguishing feature—all of its signs were upside down.

Over the years, The Upside Down Plaza was a right of passage for many young Birminghamians. Here’s what a few of the folks on the Hahn’s Historic Birmingham Facebook page had to say:

Joe Cannon was the owner and literally made a not too small fortune here. A lot of it from me.

“Best jukebox on Southside. Only one I knew of with “A String of Pearls” on it. More late nights than I ought to admit, and at the Plaza, the later the better. I was there the night it closed, but never got close enough to get inside. Several hundred people were there, and were even going up to Western to buy beer, because you couldn’t get close.”

“I am from Nashville and drank many a beer there during college. It had a mosaic tiled floor. Will never forget walking out the front door one night, looking up and seeing Vulcan.”

Nearly Six Decades of Memories

The original Upside Down Plaza sign at the entrance of the dive bar. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now
  • Address: 2012 Magnolia Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35205
  • Hours: 5PM to 3AM Monday—Sunday, 2PM to 3AM Saturday

In 1986, the Cannon’s sold The Plaza to Jimbo Flemming, who moved the bar its current location in the basement of the Pickwick Plaza in Five Points South. A few years later, Chef Chris and Idie Hastings opened their award-winning restaurant, Hot and Hot Fish Club, in the former location of The Plaza.

Now in its 58th year, the Upside Down Plaza is still a Five Points landmark. Check them out on Facebook, and the next time you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and create a lasting memory.

What are your favorite memories from the Upside Down Plaza? Tag us @bhamnow and share!

  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.