Art and cocktails intertwine at The House of Found Objects, the latest creation from Birmingham bar bard Feizal Valli (The Collins Bar, The Atomic Lounge). And the customers themselves are part of the performance.

As you are led through the bar for seating, you may pass the “Elvis Table” where patrons have donned white “Vegas Elvis” jumpsuits. Artwork on the stand pays homage to the King. That group sits next to a table of drinkers dressed in Sesame Street costumes. His friend, dressed as Cookie Monster, is working in the room handing out coooo-keees.

Settling into a table upstairs, she notices a light switch on the wall next to her. Next to it is a sign: “Whatever you do, don’t turn this switch on.” You, of course, do exactly that, activating a lush bubble machine. And that’s just the beginning of the wonders at The House of Found Objects.

“There’s commitment here beyond the alcohol,” says Valli, who opened the downtown bar in November in a busy corridor along Second Avenue North. “Each table is uniquely engaged.”

There is a booth to make videos to later project them on a big screen behind the bar. Nearby is a desk and a manual typewriter for people to commemorate their thoughts. One night, a woman dressed as a pink pig wrote poetry.

Anyone who dons the Cookie Monster costume is served a cookie. Cookie Monster then gets a tray of cookies to hand out to other customers. One Ohio boy was so captivated by his experience that when he returned home, he sent boxes of cookies to the bar so others could share in the joy, Valli says.

Signature cocktails are named after regular customers. If the namesake is at the bar, that’s who delivers it. Order a Geno Pearson (vodka, pomegranate liqueur, raspberry-hibiscus tea, lemon, wildflower honey, rosemary) and you’ll arrive with an introduction: “Hi, I’m Geno Pearson. Here is your ‘Geno Pearson’”.

“Their minds are blown,” Valli says. “That’s not something you’ll see anywhere else.”

Valli has been at the forefront of Birmingham’s cocktail scene since co-founding The Collins Bar in 2013. It was the city’s first bar specializing in unusual concoctions made from premium and hard-to-find ingredients and presented in a visually appealing way.

Valli, an art alumnus, and Rachael Roberts were the creative forces behind The Atomic Lounge, which ran from 2017 to 2021. Along the way, The Atomic garnered several industry honors and was a three-time semifinalist for the national “Program Outstanding Bar” from the James Beard Foundation.

The costumes, the bubble machine, the drinks of the same name, and the signature Sex Panther cocktail (which comes with a temporary tattoo) are all carryovers from The Atomic. But The House of Found Objects offers a whole gallery for Valli’s artistic vision.

A “found object” is something familiar that is reinterpreted, giving it new meaning. Displayed throughout the bar, Valli has been collecting them for years. But experience there can also extend that concept to include sponsors.

“The idea of ​​a ‘found object’ is that once you take it out of its context, it’s free to be whatever you want it to be,” says Valli. “People can come here and be whatever they want to be. In that sense, they are ‘found objects’”.

The bar is also a house of found spaces. Distinct seating areas are throughout, beginning with a split-level deck decked out for a vintage ’70s living room feel.

“Everything is a set,” says Valli.

The upstairs “Listen Room” has stereo equipment and headphones. Eleven of the city’s best DJs have created playlists especially for the bar, which are available to play on headphones or download.

The curtains at the entrance to the “Womb Room” are, ahem, cleverly decorated, leading through a tunnel to a small space where a jazz band will play from a stage now under construction.

The “Jungle Room” is lush with artificial plants and artificial grass; recorded bird songs are heard. The person who seats you (they do it restaurant style) can guide you through a curtain at the edge of the jungle and lead you up another flight of stairs to a loft above the bar.

“It’s above the clouds,” Valli notes, pointing to the puffy white 3D art that rotates above the main floor. Each cloud features a historical aircraft: the Enola Gay or the Red Baron’s triplane, for example. Below them, the wall says, “You’re no safer in First Class.”

These reflections of Valli’s quirky humor can be found throughout the bar, especially in the captions that accompany his “found items.”

One with a toy soldier says, “You’re only at war with yourself.” A statue depicting the Last Supper warns: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” An Instamatic camera shoots: “You are not your Instagram account.”

Even the entrance is cryptically marked. There’s no business name, just “That Bridge Isn’t Going To Burn Itself Down.”

There is even more to find in The House of Found Objects. Each visit produces a new discovery. Everyone is in on the fun. That is Valli’s goal.

“The core function of a bar is to engage and make those introductions to people,” Valli says. “Costumes do it, drinks named after people do it. We managed to speed up the process of making this a community.”

(This story originally appeared on SoulGrown, an affiliate of Yellowhammer Multimedia)

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