Alabama Fish Bar, an Over-the-Rhine landmark and neighborhood institution, will get a facelift this fall as part of the massive Willkommen project from Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., or 3CDC.
The takeout only fried fish hot spot at 1601 Race St. will get a fresh coat of paint, new flooring, an updated storefront and more modern equipment, including a new hood, walk-in cooler and grill, according to 3CDC, which owns the building.
The upgrades are part of the plan for Willkommen, a $50 million mixed-income, mixed-use project that consists of 16 rehabbed buildings and four new buildings scattered throughout four different sites in OTR.
The project, which has been in the works for several years, will create 163 residential units, including 69 affordable units, and 19,500 square feet of commercial space, including Alabama.
“Things take time, and if you want something done right, you can’t rush into it,” said Anna Fillis, who owns the restaurant. "It’s been about three years in the making, but I’m happy for the change, and excited for the future.”
Alabama has signed a long-term lease with 3CDC to stay put at the location where it has served celebrities, politicians and sports stars for nearly three decades.
But the 1,460-square-foot restaurant will have to close for several weeks this fall for construction.
During that time, Fillis has pledged to continue to pay her nine employees a weekly salary. Most of them have been with her for at least 20 years, she said.
"I’ve always been taught and always told my employees: you treat people the same; how you want to be treated,” Fillis said. “I’ve always lived by that.”
3CDC and its partner on the Willkommen project, OTR-based The Model Group, have made plans to ensure the neighborhood mainstay is closed for as short a period as possible.
And they promise the renovations will be worth the wait.
“These improvements will not only benefit Alabama’s, but the whole community, and we hope the renovation contributes to keeping the restaurant here for many years to come,'' said Katie Westbrook, 3CDC's development manager.