Sinclair Social

Sinclair Social: A Contemporary Venue Prepped For Success

Article By Abby Parks

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It’s intriguing when an innovative concept in food and beverage venues comes on the scene, especially in an area like Calhoun County where the nearest larger city is at least an hour’s commute. Anniston, Alabama has once again put itself on the map at the forefront of something unique for a mid-sized town in the Southeast. Welcome The Sinclair Social, a combination food truck lot and open-air bar/dining garden. This new venue, which just opened its doors on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, promises to make its mark on Anniston’s Main Street in a big way.


If you’ve called this area home for more than a few years, then you’ve probably passed the old, empty Sinclair gas station on 10th Street countless times. It takes a creative eye and mind to view a place like that (which was actually remodeled to look like a vintage Sinclair gas station for the 2020 Netflix movie The Devil All the Time) as a family-friendly venue. However, a group of five inventive Anniston locals did just that. They put their minds together and pooled their resources to purchase the building: Brett Key, Tyler McNickel, Ben Miller, Carolyne Marsh, and Grant Jackson. 


I got a chance to sit down with two of the five co-owners–Brett and Tyler–to chat about The Sinclair Social, as well as enjoy the atmosphere on none other than St. Patrick’s Day! 


Q: How did Sinclair Social come about? What was your conception with this place?


Tyler: We’ve seen this building for 15 years. Back in the day when Kristy owned it, we spent so much time there. We just always bounced around the idea of how cool it would be to do something here. Probably 2 years ago, the building went up for sale and we decided to pull the trigger.


Brett: We really wanted to make it a family-friendly atmosphere–that was the concept from day one. 


Tyler: We all have kids or kids on the way and we were looking for a place–not necessarily a restaurant– where you can go hang out, have some food, have things for your kids to do. 


Q: I guess having food trucks here helps you avoid some things like having a kitchen and such?


Brett: Yes, we did not want to be involved in the food service side of it. The food trucks have been fantastic. So far, great partnerships have been formed with them. We just want to run the bar side of it and the entertainment.


Q: What kind of food trucks are you hoping to have here and how many do you think you’ll be having on a particular weekend?


Tyler: We can fit up to four on the property right now. We’d love to have all four full every weekend, but at least one or two at all times. As far as food trucks, we want all sorts of variety, whoever wants to come, we’re not limited to anything.


Brett: We welcome all. Yesterday we had Bigboy Wings, Tom’s Coffee, SendNoodz, the Kona Ice truck. Both food trucks sold out of food yesterday. 


Q: Are any others planning to come?


Tyler: Yes. We have The Classic Melt coming Thursday.


Brett: And Brix N Stix will be back on Friday along with Bigboy Wings. And we have a good partnership with Full Bellie Deli. They’re doing sandwiches for us right now out back. We hope to keep that partnership–they’ve been fantastic!


Q: Will you usually have someone serving back there? Just them?


Brett: Not all the time. We welcome restaurant popups for different events. We’re looking for all of that stuff. For our soft opening we had Classic do a little bit of catering with charcuterie boards, and we look to do more of that as well.


For a Sunday at lunchtime, there was a nice crowd at Sinclair Social. Some folks were seated or standing around the bar, while others sat in various spots on comfortable sofas and chairs of varied designs that combine the vintage retro feel of a speakeasy with a modern-day twist. I had chosen a plush chocolate leather couch with a mini table in front and camel-colored armchairs to the right and left. 


As I also came for the experience, I ordered a delicious Reuben sandwich on marble rye bread from Bellie Deli in the set-up out back. They put a clever twist on the sandwich for St. Patrick’s Day with green-colored sauerkraut included in the meat-packed sandwich. The glass of beer I had to accompany it really hit the spot. While I had wanted green beer, the fact they had sold out to the huge crowd the night before did not perturb me.


To my left on a set of black and white leather couch/loveseat combo sat a couple of friends of mine, who came over to share that they had also been there Saturday night, declaring that the place had been packed out. I was eager to hear more from Brett and Tyler on the success of their opening weekend and the behind-the-scenes people who made it happen.


Q: How did your soft opening go?


Brett & Tyler: Yesterday was fantastic! I don’t think we could have hoped for anything better. Great turnout, great support, great bands. Our staff did just a fantastic job.


Brett: I think it’s important to note that we couldn’t have done it without Kristy Farmer. She’s our general manager, and she has done a phenomenal job pointing us in the right direction, doing the day-to-day stuff. 


Q: Did you approach Kristy because of The Peerless and the fact she’d worked there?


Tyler: Brett and I grew up here, and basically grew up at The Peerless. Kristy used to babysit my wife! I feel like, day one that we talked about this concept, the first thing was that we’d need to convince Kristy to come on board and help…Everybody has been super supportive. Cotina and Courtney of The Lush were in here last night.


Brett: We’re going to do a wine tasting event with them next month. We want to be collaborative with everybody. So anybody looking to do an event here, we want to host it.


Q: How would you describe your bar and what are your plans for it?


Brett & Tyler: Upscale cocktails. We’ve got Prosecco on tap, Singin’ River’s Apocalypse IPA, Sweetwater 420 IPA–last night we tapped like five kegs! We had Cahaba Blonde, Cahaba Blood Orange last night, Volcano Sour. 


Brett: We’re going to do staple cocktails, but then have five specialty cocktails that we rotate seasonally. 


Tyler: We’ve got a Bloody Mary brunch menu that will be only on Sundays. 


Q: Is the concept [behind Sinclair Social] something you conceived yourselves or is it going on other places?


Brett: It’s fair to say that all five of us pulled from ideas of places we had all been in other cities, from Atlanta to D.C. to Austin, Texas, Nashville. We’ve pulled concepts from places that we’ve liked and seen, and they melted into this…I don’t think anyone’s really done a retro gas station like this. I don’t think you’ll walk into many that have two massive 5-foot chandeliers in the middle of the bay door.


On the remodeling and design, Grant Jackson led the charge on the tear-down and construction, as he had contracting experience. Scott Skinner helped pick out the chandeliers, other lighting, and furniture to bring their decor to life and create a relaxed and comfortable environment for patrons.


In the back garden, they have a bocce ball court in one corner and a life-sized twister board spray-painted into the grass on the other side with a spinner attached to the fence. A 3-hole putting green is on the way to expand the outdoor recreation fun for kids and adults of all ages. They also have two gas fire pits on either side of the yard surrounded by comfortable Adirondack chairs for groups to congregate around. In the center of it all is their outdoor stage that the bands Railroad Avenue and FM Revival broke in the night before. Their goal is to have live music at least one night every weekend with two nights being the preference. Bands that visitors can expect in coming days include Wes Singleton and Highland Groove.


Tyler and Brett both stressed that the venue is family-friendly–not only are kids welcome, but it’s also a pet-friendly place! They plan to have Kids Movie Nights during the summer cast on a giant screen and would like to have their venue draw visitors who attend outdoor events in downtown Anniston such as Noble Street Fest, events hosted by Main Street Anniston, and more.


It was obvious to me that Sinclair Social is on track to be a huge success, and will play a large role in attracting visitors far and wide to downtown Anniston, Alabama. 


Brett:  We’d like to say thanks to the community and how much support we’ve gotten from surrounding restaurants. The city has helped us out a lot and we hope to be here for a long time.


You can visit Sinclair Social at 33 W 10th St, Anniston, Alabama, 36201. Hours of operation are Wednesday – Thursday 4-9 pm; Friday – Saturday 12-11 pm; and Sunday 12-7 pm. To contact them directly email thesinclairsocial@gmail.com.


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