Sometimes great ideas just need a little liquid courage. At least, that’s what one Birmingham bar is out to prove.
With its grand opening taking place tomorrow in the heart of beloved Pepper Place, The Lumbar is the brainchild of father-daughter duo Tim and Rylie Hightower. Tim serves as the bar’s builder and engineer while Rylie takes credit for much of the creative concept behind the space, which is anything but ordinary.
The bar’s premise, Rylie explains, came from the desire to create a venue where people could come together to openly discuss ideas — business-related or creative — over a glass of beer or two. A neuroscience doctoral candidate at UAB, Rylie says a surprising amount of her education didn’t happen in libraries or stuffy conference rooms. It happened in bars.
“That’s where I really feel the most comfortable talking about my science — in an informal setting where I can throw out ideas,” Rylie says.
Like any good science-minded person, Rylie deduced that there might be a few other folks in Birmingham who had the same penchant for shooting thoughts, be they harebrained or genius, over a brew, too. So, she did what any aspiring entrepreneur would do. She called her dad.
“As I’ve gotten older and understood what kind of person my father is, I’ve realized that he builds more than structures,” Rylie says. “He builds relationships, and he builds communities — and he’s really, really good at it.”
When Rylie pitched the idea for the science-themed bar, Tim was all in. After finding the perfect location in Pepper Place, Rylie and Tim began laying the groundwork for what would become The Lumbar.
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“We are the place where you come and learn about whatever you want to learn about,” Rylie says, adding that the unique name comes from the lumbar vertebra, the largest and strongest vertebra in the spinal column. “It didn’t hurt that ‘bar’ happened to be in the name too,” Rylie adds with a smile.
Subtle nods to science can be found throughout The Lumbar. As a PhD candidate, Rylie isn’t bashful about being an advocate for all things science-related. Even the beer at The Lumbar will tie into the bar’s scientific theme.
“We will have 26 beer taps to signify the 26 fused adult human vertebrae,” Rylie says, noting that the beer will be on “spinal tap.”
“The Incubator,” an upstairs room closed off by a glass wall will serve as a spot where patrons can bring their colleagues to throw down a few ideas or beers — or both. Flanked by large whiteboards, The Incubator is just another feature that makes The Lumbar conducive for customers looking to chat about more than the weather.
“We wanted to build a place that caters to all people, not just scientists — a place where people can come in and feel like they’re a part of a community that wants to be inspired,” Rylie says.
When The Incubator isn’t being used as a meeting space, customers can post-up with their laptops and use it as a quiet spot to study.
As far as the bar’s menu, which will feature lunch and dinner options, Rylie took inspiration from her home state of New Mexico. Most of the dishes, she says, will feature flavorful pops of green chile.
“It’s a spicy chili pepper,” she explains. “It’s incredibly flavorful. It’s not like a jalapeño, and it’s not like a cayenne. It has a very, very deep, rich flavor.”
A few of the menu items include the Frito pie, green chile cheeseburger and the New Mexican sandwich.
“We wanted to bring a little bit of our family to our new family and community here in Birmingham,” Rylie says.
Beer will be local, and cocktails will be bold in flavor and creative in presentation at The Lumbar. Keeping in theme with the space, signature cocktails will boast science-specific names like “The Rigor & Reproducibility” and “The Heisenberg.”
The Lumbar will also be the place to celebrate anything science-related, Rylie notes. Shark Week, The Nobel Prize, rocket launches — these will all be more than good enough reasons to swing by Birmingham’s latest science bar and geek out among like-minded intellects.
Even if science isn’t your thing, the space is worth checking out. “If not for the education, come for the good food and drink,” Rylie says with a smile while taking a sip. “It’s a place that provides a way to be in an informal setting where you can discuss important things, but also drink beer — you know?”
Thank you to Tyler Furgerson for the great images of The Lumbar.