Lunch came early in Phenix City Monday morning.
Terry Bussey, executing a five-year plan he started when he bought Chicken Comers Bar-B-Que restaurant in Columbus, has now reopened the the Phenix City location.
The doors swung open and the first customers started coming into the restaurant at the intersection of 14th Street and 11th Avenue shortly after 10:30 a.m. It is the first time in more than 17 years that Chicken Comers has served barbecue pork and that iconic mustard-based hot sauce of the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee River.
Bussey opened the restaurant with little publicity — other than some teasers on social media and word of mouth.
“There has been nothing easy about it,” Bussey said just before opening Monday.
He spent most of the night at the restaurant and more than 500 pounds of pork on the pit at the building’s rear.
Jerry Gilliland, who works at the paper mill in southern Russell County, was among the first customers.
“It’s still good,” said Gilliland, who developed a taste for the hot sauce years ago and would make trips to Columbus to get the barbecue. “All you need is sauce, meat and bread. And a Coke or RC.”
Chicken Comers was started in 1929 in Phenix City, the restaurant has changed ownership at least five times and has been in business off Veterans Parkway in north Columbus for the last 17 years. Bussey has owned the restaurant for five years and it was always his plan to open a second store in Phenix City, which started construction earlier this year.
But it wasn’t easy because he had to deal with tax issues that were not of his making.
One of reasons Chicken Comers was located in Georgia was that the business owed more than $40,000 to the state of Alabama in back sales tax and penalties. That issue did not occur under Bussey’s ownership, but he had to deal with it before he could open an Alabama store. He made his case to the Alabama Revenue Department, arguing that it would be wrong to use the back taxes from allowing a new restaurant to generate new sales and employment tax revenue.
“I am glad the state of Alabama cleared the way for us to open back up over here,” Bussey said.
And he is going to have more expanded hours than some barbecue restaurants, he said. He plans to be open Monday-Saturday and closed on Sundays. The restaurant will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Bussey said. There will be a drive-thur.
Bussey planned to close at 6 Monday, regroup and start regular hours and make the drive-thru operational on Tuesday.