It was owned by sibling-partners Brad and Merrilee Challiss with partner Brian Teasley (who married Merilee in 2011). The name was intended to evoke southern folk tradition while the operation is intended to combine the best of southern hospitality with the casual lifestyle of a European neighborhood cafe (with state-of-the-art sound and video presentation).
In advance of its official grand opening, Bottletree hosted several private events, fund-raisers, and BYOB concerts. The cafe, open for lunch and dinner, featured fresh vegetarian dishes made with locally-grown produce, as well as limited deli and pub offerings. In February 2007, Bottletree's vegetarian chili won The Birmingham News Championship Chili contest, having been nominated by readers and beating out five other (non-vegetarian) finalists.
Merilee Challis, who is an accomplished visual artist, decorated the space with a wide-ranging collection of offbeat artifacts and outsider art. In addition the interior was used a gallery for contemporary shows by local artists.
The stage was booked by Secret History Productions, a promotions company headed by Teasley and Leah Hutchinson. Bottletree became a favored stop for nationally-known touring acts and also hosted stand-up comedy, independent film screenings, and the occasional live game show or Atari or Wii video game tournament. The Alabama Public Television program We Have Signal originated from Bottletree.
In 2009, Bottletree was the official backstage caterer for City Stages. When the music festival filed for bankruptcy later that summer, Bottletree was listed as an unsecured creditor, owed $15,300. The owners and patrons of the bar held events such as a silent auction to raise funds to keep Bottletree open.
Bottletree served as the location of the awards ceremony during the Southern disComfort scooter rally in 2010. Teasley opened the Saturn Bar in Avondale in 2015. Challis sold the Bottletree building to Fresh Hospitality the same year.
Za Za Zann
|3719 3rd Avenue South
2006 - 2015
Saigon Noodle House
- "New Hangout" (July 13, 2006) Black & White "Urban Living 2006" special advertising section
- Harvey, Alec (February 2, 2007) "Chili, no carne, wins." The Birmingham News
- Colurso, Mary (July 31, 2009) "For Birmingham's Bottletree, the glass is still half full." The Birmingham News
- McAlister, Laura, Joe O'Donnell, Mary Ellen Stancill and Carla Jean Whitley (2009) "The Drinker's Dozen" Birmingham magazine
- Shook, Lee M., Jr (October 27, 2011) "A Grand Experiment: The story behind the little club that could, and how it changed Birmingham's music scene in five short years." Black & White
- Reese, Britty (June 12, 2012) "Dreaming of you, Birmingham: Celebrating the venue that helped revive the Birmingham music scene." Kaleidoscope
- Dick, Jonathan K. (September 2, 2012) "Ask Questions Later - An Interview With Merrilee Challiss" Steel for Brains
- Davis, Bryan (March 10, 2015) "Fresh Hospitality to purchase Bottletree Cafe property." Birmingham Business Journal
- Owens, Cody (March 24, 2015) "Message in a bottle" Weld for Birmingham