There may be some dropped teeth, some slack jaws and some grandpas spinning in their graves around these parts this week as Dade County takes yet another step into modernity—or yet another nosedive down the slippery slope of sin and iniquity, depending on the reader’s point of view: Meg’s Diner will go “wet” as of Wednesday, when the restaurant reopens for the week, allowing patrons to “brown-bag” beer and wine with their dinner.
“It’s a big deal,” acknowledged Megan Blevins, co-owner with her fiancé, Michael Howard, of the restaurant. Speaking by phone Monday afternoon, she said she and young Howard had received reactions positive and negative since announcing the BYOB decision on the restaurant’s Facebook page today. “We’re going to try it out,” she said. “It may not be permanent.”
The young couple, he the scion of the venerable Dade institution Randy’s Restaurant, she of the sorely-missed Lookout Mountain eatery Pat’s Place, opened Meg’s Diner in the site of the recently-closed Randy’s this July. Since then, said Ms. Blevins, business has been consistently pretty good…but it could always be better. Meg’s gets a big crowd on the karaoke evenings it hosts in the restaurant’s back party room on Saturday nights, and many of those customers have made it clear karaoke is more fun with a beer in one’s hand.
Karaoke night, incidentally, begins at 6 p.m. each Saturday and lasts until around 10 p.m.
The partners discussed the brown-bag idea at length and decided to take a shot at increasing their business. Michael Howard called the Dade Sheriff’s Office to check out the requirements for BYOB (bring your own bottle) business, was referred to the courthouse, and now feels pretty clear on how to proceed. “We know what the rules are,” said Ms. Blevins.
An interesting part of the rules she mentioned is that the restaurant’s servers may not clean up empty beer and wine bottles from the tables; the diners will be responsible for disposing of them themselves, said Ms. Blevins.
Meg’s is located just outside Trenton city limits. Trenton restaurants have been allowed to sell beer and wine for seven years now, though only two have taken advantage of it. A third, the Artzy Cafe, has a license approval pending. In unincorporated Dade County, voters only last November passed a referendum allowing sales of liquor of all sorts by the drink, though so far the county has issued no liquor licenses, perhaps due to the strictures, limitations and fees attached to licensure by a county commission seemingly determined to negate the referendum.
But BYOB consumption at restaurants in the county has long been permissible; the award-winning Canyon Grill atop Lookout has allowed diners to sip their own wine with the Grill’s upmarket entrees for two decades.
Meg’s Diner will follow that model, not selling wine or beer for now, only allowing their consumption in hope that it will generate more food sales. But Ms. Blevins said that’s something else that could feasibly change. “I think if we did [sell wine and beer], we’d be very busy,” she said.
That will have to wait a bit in any case: Young Howard will not turn 21, and thus able to apply for a liquor license, for three months. Ms. Blevins is still 19.
[Photo: A file shot of the young restaurateurs, Megan Blevins and Michael Howard.]
As for the elder Howards, Randy and Janice, who ran Randy’s for 30-plus years and were adamantly opposed to alcohol sales, Ms. Blevins said they still are but they understand the young couple’s ambition to improve their business. “They’re not mad at us,” she said.