Bottletree Café is a bar, restaurant, nightclub and community arts center which opened November 9, 2006 at 3719 3rd Avenue South in the building formerly housing Za Za Zann and Misconceptions. It is owned by sibling-partners Brad and Merilee Challiss with partner Brian Teasley (who married Merilee in 2011). The name is 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 Bottletree cafe, open for lunch and dinner, features 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, has decorated the space with a wide-ranging collection of offbeat artifacts and outsider art. In addition the interior is used a gallery for contemporary shows by local artists.
The stage is booked by Secret History Productions, a promotions company headed by Teasley and Leah Hutchinson. Bottletree has become a favored stop for nationally-known touring acts and also hosts stand-up comedy, independent film screenings, and the occassional Atari or Wii video game tournament. The Alabama Public Television program We Have Signal originates 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 usecured 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.
- "New Hangout" (July 13, 2006) Black & White "Urban Living 2006" special advertising section
- Harvey, Alec (February 2, 2007) "Chili, no carne, wins." Birmingham News
- Colurso, Mary (July 31, 2009) "For Birmingham's Bottletree, the glass is still half full." 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