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Who is Gordon Biersch and why is it a secret he’s coming to Fourth Street Live?

by Terry Boyd

Yesterday, insiders started telling Insider Louisville to expect a German-style microbrewery and restaurant to open in the former Borders Books space on Fourth Street Live.

Oddly, different insiders had different names, evenly split between Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant, a 30-unit chain based in Chattanooga, and Leinenkugel, part of the SABMiller/Molson/Coors global brewing conglomerate.

Toward the end of the afternoon, Gordon Briersch execs settled the issue when they called Insider Louisville to acknowledge they’re coming.

Oddly, this is one of the many, many “secrets” in Louisville you’re not allowed to know even though you as a tax payer likely are paying for the company to come.

Insiders have told us The Cordish Companies, the Baltimore-based developer that controls Fourth Street Live, has asked city officials for subsidies to attract a tenant for the strategic space at the entrance to the downtown entertainment strip. The two-story, 15,000 square-foot space was left  vacant after Borders Books liquidated last summer.

Overall, Gordon Biersch looks like a good get. The restaurants have on-site breweries turning out a list of craft beers, as well as seasonal specials.

Here’s an interesting bit from the company’s Wikipedia page about Gordon and Dean Biersch, who started the company as a brewery.

Gordon, a graduate from the five-year brewing engineering program at Weihenstephan, Germany, and Biersch opened their first brewery restaurant in Palo Alto, California in July 1988. In 1999, the restaurants were sold to what ultimately became CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries. In November 1995, the two founders and their original investors, wanting to expand their then $20-million business, accepted a $11.2 million investment from the Fertitta family of Las Vegas.[1][2] Lorenzo Fertitta, a 1991 graduate of the University of San Diego, became the controlling owner. Gordon Biersch currently brews beer for Costco and Trader Joe’s under contract. The Gordon Biersch brewery and bottling plant is located in San Jose, California.[3]

All the crowd sourcing review sites typically give Gordon Biersch (the restaurant/brauhaus) at least four, and usually five, out of five stars, and this Washington Post review goes on and on about the beer.

The interiors of the restaurants sound in reviews like they rival Eddie Merlot’s, the super chi-chi steakhouse that we hear is absolutely killing it in the Starks Building next door to Fourth Street Live.

So when we called the city to get some comment, an angry Chris Poynter demanded to know if Cordish “told us.”

From the beginning, we’ve been told that Cordish and only Cordish would make this glorious announcement.

Which is fine. But we’re in the news business.

Which is a pretty sad business right now.

Poynter is a former Courier-Journal reporter who makes certain his newspaper colleagues are well fed and tended by Mayor Greg Fischer’s publicity machine. In return, his friends promise to never, ever publish anything that might upset that delicate relationship, which guarantees them the news releases first.

Which is fine.

But the city doesn’t own the news. Hell, it doesn’t even own Fourth Street Live, where Cordish makes every decision that impacts the city’s ability, or lack of, to bring in conventions, a crucial business for this town and a crucial element for rebuilding the downtown business district.

Our economic development and hotel insiders are telling us no one is thrilled about yet another restaurant at Fourth Street Live no matter how great it is. They tell us that in survey after survey, out-of-town visitors bemoan Louisville’s lack of any downtown consumer retailers.

So, we get another restaurant.

We’d like to know if We the People are paying Cordish to give us what we don’t need. But all dealings between the city and the developer are – you guessed it – secret.

Hmmmmm.

If city officials are this defensive about a restaurant, we wonder how forthcoming they’d be about something that’s actually important?

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