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Meta craft cocktail bar to open in former Show-N-Tell location

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The sign, which combines “Girls, Girls, Girls” with an antique camera, dates back to when the building belonged to Schuhmann’s Click Clinic.

When Meta, a new craft cocktail bar opens in the former Show-n-Tell (425 W. Chestnut St.) strip club in October, the workers will be shaking their money makers.

Their cocktail shakers, not their hindquarters; just bartenders, no exotic dancers.

Not the Show-n-Tell anymore. Construction is underway at the former strip club site to turn it into Meta, a craft cocktail bar.

Not the Show-n-Tell anymore. Construction is underway at the former strip club site to turn it into Meta, a craft cocktail bar.

Operators Hannah Kandle and Jeremy Johnson didn’t really intend on leveraging the past identify of the skin saloon in their new project, but the more they got involved, the more it made sense.

“When we first got in, the stripper poles were still up, the lights were still up everywhere and the private dance rooms still had mirrors on the walls,” said Kandle. The stripper poles are being repurposed as a kick rail for the bar and a bike rack out front. Kandle said each has been thoroughly cleaned, but the markings of their grip-and-slip history remain. “There are still a lot of fingerprints patinaed into the brass.”

The bar’s private areas, generators of copious unreported tips and questionable TLC, will be reused as semi-private lounge areas. The site’s legendary neon sign also will be salvaged.

“Those are conversation pieces that are pretty funny, so why not?” Kandle said. “Reuse, repurpose and recycle, right?”

Kandle and Johnson are veteran restaurant and bar employees who’ve logged time in Minneapolis and Chicago. Their work here includes Kandle’s time at Basa, La Coop and Relish for Kandle, while Johnson opened Meat, the currently closed craft cocktail haunt located above the Blind Pig.

Now, if you’re clever, like our managing editor, you may think Meta is an alphabetical switcheroo of the name of Meat. (Full disclosure: I wasn’t that clever, which partly explains why I suck at Scrabble.)

Not so, said Johnson. Rather, it plays on the Greek prefix “meta,” which means taking a look at something “through an abstraction of the original, which is really what the craft cocktail movement is. It’s bartending about bartending. We want to take those classic influences and develop them and modernize them even further.”

According to a news release from the Louisville Metropolitan Business Development Corporation (METCO),  Amagertorv, LLC, which owns the building, has secured a $50,000 façade loan for masonry work, new windows, wood repair and aesthetic changes to the storefront. (The original version of this story labeled Meta’s partners as tied to Amagertov.)

The pair chose the site partly for the neighborhood’s mix of seedy and reborn locations.

“Opening there makes it a bit exclusive because there’s nothing else like it nearby,” she said. “The location itself was a risk, but we really wanted to embrace the area.

“And we’ve learned to love the reaction we get when people ask where: ‘Oh that place! I’ve been there!’”

She expects patrons will be a blend of locals, guests of nearby hotels and people coming from area restaurants to extend their night out. Meta will extend its operating hours Thursday through Saturday to 4 a.m.

As far as the bar, Kandle said to expect pre-Prohibition era cocktails done with their unique twists, a French-only wine list and a premium non-alcoholic drink program.

“We’re planning on sourcing interesting French syrups that no one else in the country carries, and we’ll use those in sodas,” she said. Like all the high-end bars around town, they’ll be making their own bitters and mixes. “We think that non-alcoholic drinks are (in demand) and underrepresented.”

Live music will factor in to the program over time (Johnson’s sister is Carly Johnson, the noted jazz singer who performs in local restaurants) and they’d like to add food about six months after opening.

Once renovated, Kandle believes the bar will seat about 100. She said that, and a lot of updated fixtures and furniture, will add to Meta’s semi-exclusive feel.

“We have plenty of dive bars around town—and we like those, too,” she said. “But we want this to be a bit more elevated.”

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