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Iconic West Columbia Italian restaurant closing after 44 years

Jason Thomas //November 14, 2023//

Iconic West Columbia Italian restaurant closing after 44 years

Jason Thomas //November 14, 2023//

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Al's Upstairs Italian Restaurant will cease all operations on Dec. 19. (Photo/Provided)

After a 44-year journey in the restaurant business, Al Loftis, the founder of Al's Upstairs Italian Restaurant, has made the decision to retire.

The iconic establishment will cease all operations on Dec. 19, according to a news release.

Al Loftis embarked on his culinary adventure at the age of 18, and over the years, he has become a beloved figure in the community, the release stated. The announcement of his retirement marks the end of an era for Al's, a place that has been a staple for countless special occasions, dinners out, date nights and private dining events patrons have entrusted Al’s to serve them, the release stated.

The longevity and success of Al’s are attributed in no small part to the dedication and combined 55 years of experience of Clair Bouknight and Chef Mike Wright, the release stated. Their commitment to excellence has significantly shaped the restaurant's reputation for exceptional Italian cuisine.

“I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the current, talented, and dedicated staff at Al’s,” Loftis said in a letter to friends and customers. “Their unwavering commitment to putting our customers first has allowed us to enjoy continued growth year after year. 2023 has been a record year for us, and I am proud of what we've achieved together.”

The kitchen staff and waitstaff, who have been the backbone of Al's success, deserve special recognition for their hard work and dedication, the release stated.

In reflecting on his journey, Loftis expressed deep gratitude to his family: his parents, the late Mary and Curtis M. Loftis Sr. for their unwavering support, wisdom, and Mary’s decorative touch that graced every room in the restaurant, the release stated. He also extended special thanks to his wife, Lisa, for her encouragement and patience throughout the sometimes demanding hours of restaurant ownership.