How A Local Man Found His Way to The Back Alley
by Charles Ray Hastings, Jr.
When I first met Ronnie Moore he was the singer of a doom country band called Barnstormers. I hadn’t heard much about his aspirations to be a restaurant owner. He, in my first experiences, was a solid songwriter who was writing serious material askew from other North Alabama artists; a strange mind projecting beyond the shows we played together, beyond the low attendance and bad lineups of our blooming scene.
Fast forward a few years, it’s 2009 and he opens his first venue in a desanctified Decatur church, losing the space to a congregation who had been renting the space from him. It took Ronnie almost a year to exercise his next venture, extending his initial interest in a legitimate infrastructure through a combination coffee shop and music venue. At Coffee and Playhouse, his attention began to shift away from the venue side of his business to menu variations and asserting his social branding to an honest-to-the-word local businessman, which is a feat in your late twenties after your adult life has been spent attending punk rock and hardcore shows and generally practicing subversion in all artistic formats. So it was no surprise to me when a great shop vacancy opened on East 2nd Avenue, he made a business decision and closed Coffee and Playhouse’s doors.
I had gotten to know him fairly well at this point but was on the road with my band and only heard ripples of rumors, deluded stories of what was happening back home. After getting home from our last tour, he told me about the layout and plans to include a bar section to his new bistro launch. Now the venue portion of his new spot is only a backdrop, not the center piece, to the family atmosphere and casual dining: acoustic nights on Wednesday, free for local singer-songwriter types to showcase their talents; and Thursdays dedicated to indie acts. The menu includes varied styles from brunch options to French and Latin American influenced lunch and dinner items. You can order sandwiches to soups, salads to entree’s, and most things in between. But the best part about the growth of an individual aware of the importance of community and local loyalty is an honest sense of aesthetics towards creating something worth the space you inhabit.
Looking back, some of my favorite moments of Coffee and Playhouse were eating the vegan wraps while watching the more chill aspects of the local crop of musicians. You fare well to rest on the laurels of your community, creating a space where like minded individuals can come together and simply enjoy each other’s company. When it opens in mid-to-late April, I would suggest you join me and make your way to Back Alley Bistro at 209a East 2nd Avenue in Decatur, AL as often as you can for good eats at fair prices cause in the long run we remember our favorite meals with our closest friends the most. Also, it doesn’t hurt to know the man behind the bistro is a local guy with both hands on the wheel.