Birmingham’s The Garage is changing owners but not character

The Garage sign on Birmingham’s Southside. (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

Earlier this week, Kay Woehle—owner of popular Birmingham bar The Garage—announced the sale of the bar/cafe to long time patron “Irish Bob” Ryan.

Called one of the best bars in America by Esquire, The Garage is known for its welcoming atmosphere and courtyard, which was once a complex of 1930s-era covered garage stalls. 

For years, the stalls have been filled with antiques, old lawn statues and architectural fragments acquired by the original landlord— the late Fritz Woehle, Kay’s father and a prominent Birmingham architect.

In her announcement, Woehle described how she has turned over the bar and cafe portion of the establishment. Here is her post about the bar and future of the antiques in the courtyard:

“So many people inquire about the antiques in the courtyard. However, I’ve been so busy over the last 8+ years focusing on the bar that I’ve neglected the interest of my father’s collection, which I know people are eager to view and possibly purchase. So, after careful consideration I’ve decided to sell the bar to long time patron, Bob Ryan. Many of you know him as “Irish Bob”. Bob has purchased the bar and has brought on Chelsea Bishop as the manager. I’m so excited about this new chapter and the energy Bob and Chelsea will bring. Bob will carry on the tradition of The Garage…it’s uniqueness, it’s vibe and everything we all love about the bar.”

(The Garage/Facebook)

After the news of the sale, Bham Now talked to Bob Ryan, the new owner about what’s next for The Garage.

“I’ve been going to The Garage for nearly 20 years. I’ve loved the place from the get go. It’s such a unique bar. You just can’t find a bar like The Garage. Over the years I became friends with Jimmy, then Kay, the staff, and all the regulars. It’s such a collection of characters.”

Changes at The Garage?

Patrons at The Garage Courtyard (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

Will there be changes at The Garage come the new year?

“I won’t change the character of the place. What Fritz and Jimmy created cannot be messed with! Kay has done an incredible job over the last 8 years, and I’m going to continue in that spirit.”

Ryan is going to make a few small additions. They include:

  • Beginning in the new year, customers can use debit and credit cards 
  • Bring back music on Sunday afternoons
  • Open an additional night or two during the week

Along with these changes, Ryan has hired Chelsea Bishop to be the Bar Manager.

“Honestly, I know a lot about drinking at a bar, but not so much about running a bar! I’m very lucky that Chelsea agreed to come on board, and that the staff that everybody knows and loves are staying on” Ryan said. 

We are very excited to see The Garage — a Birmingham original — continue its traditions and keep the thing that makes it special. 

 What do you think of the new changes at The Garage? Tell us on social media by tagging us @bhamnow

Pat Byington
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.

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