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Kathy Payne, born in 1958, grew up in Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama. She began her career as a server at Leo’s Seafood and Steakhouse in downtown Birmingham. There she learned the standards of white tablecloth dining.
Payne decided to trade fine dining for a more casual atmosphere. She followed her colleagues at Leo’s to Niki’s West in 1991. Payne serves diners in the spacious dining rooms quickly and efficiently. She chalks the restaurant’s success up to its consistency throughout the years.