Huntsville staple Thirsty Turtle fully reopens after seven month hiatus

The Thirsty Turtle fully reopened in Huntsville.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 7:23 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A Huntsville staple is returning in full force. The Thirsty Turtle Bar and Restaurant has sat in an unassuming corner of a strip mall in south Huntsville for over thirty years, many regulars have been sitting at their tables for almost as many years.

They had to pack their bags in August 2022 when owner, Marilyn Vermeer passed away since all of the permits were still in her name.

The longtime managers, bartenders and waiters had to decide whether to try and keep the Turtle alive or close up shop.

Former Thirsty Turtle managers Chari Ridzelski, Nicole Kromis and Sarah Richman stepped up to the plate. They worked at the Turtle for over 20 years each and had a combined 70 years of service between them.

Richman says she never saw herself owning a bar but she could not let her second home die plus she wanted to keep seeing her regulars.

“For a lot of the regulars, this is their home,” said Richman. “This is everybody’s home and we wanted to make sure it was around for everyone.”

They spent several months fielding through red tape to bring the Thirsty Turtle back to life. After seven months, they finally succeeded. First, they regained the ability to serve food in mid-March and finally acquired their liquor license on March 29.

The new owners are quick to say that they did not make all this progress on their own.

Even fixing up the bar was a team effort. They say family and friends of the Turtle stopped by to paint walls, carry heavy objects and so much more.

The bar’s reopening saw a large crowd. They were packed for their first day and had been waiting for months to walk back into the green-walled dive bar.

“The Thirsty Turtle has existed as a haven for me and some of my friends to go to,” said Thirsty Turtle regular, Matt Speakman. “I know in the past it’s been a great place to hang out and my friends have gone through a lot of tough times and every time we spend our time there the staff has been really comforting and welcoming.”

“I couldn’t wait to see the new place. I couldn’t wait to see the new renovations. I couldn’t wait to see all the regulars and staff here,” said regular Michael Owens.

This new Thirsty Turtle owners are expecting a busy weekend to mark the first Friday and Saturday night with their liquor license.

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