Cahoots is one of many bars that line Bardstown Road, but it has garnered a reputation for being at the center of fights and crime. | By Caitlin Bowling
Cahoots is one of many bars that line Bardstown Road, but it has garnered a reputation for being a hotbed of fights and crime. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Story updated on Aug 26.

The Original Highlands Neighborhood Association wants Cahoots out of business.

A letter sent to Louisville Metro Alcoholic Beverage Control on Aug. 21 asks the government entity to permanently revoke Cahoots’ beer, wine and liquor license — a move that would force the owner to close or change businesses. Cahoots will go before the local ABC board in September for a hearing on recent violations.

“With violence occurring in or near its premises on a regular basis, overcapacity crowds, and evidence of drug use and/or traffic inside the establishment, its continued operation creates an ongoing hazard to the physical safety of our residents, their families, and their homes,” the letter signed by the association’s board reads.

Metro Councilman Tom Owen, D-8, who represents that section of the Highlands, and Council President David Tandy were cc’ed on the letter. Owen is out of the country on vacation, and Tandy could not be reached for comment.

The letter was sent after a video showing a large fight on Bardstown Road as well as an individual tasering another person surfaced on YouTube. Several local news sites posted clips from one of the videos titled “cahoots fun.”

While some say the fight started at Cahoots and continued down the street to the front of Friend’s Hookah Cafe, others said the fight was started by people walking from Baxter Avenue and that Cahoots wasn’t involved.

LMPD told Wave 3 News that Cahoots has become a nuisance in the past several months and that the department had received complaints about narcotics use there.

Jaret Hill, attorney for Cahoots owner Marcia Cain, said he believes Cahoots is being unfairly targeted.

Back in January, Cahoots was ordered to pay $2,300 in fines or face a 46-day license suspension after police raided the bar last September and found a 19-year-old drinking there, 10 hydrocodone pills, 13 bags of cocaine, two bags of marijuana, and evidence that people had been smoking inside despite the citywide smoking ban, according to a police report.

Since then, Hill said, Cahoots has begun hiring multiple off-duty officers to work security on the weekends — as have other nearby bars after the recent fight — and has instituted a cover charge on weekends. Patrons also are patted down before entering the bar, he said.

If Cahoots closes, he said, “the problem won’t go away. It will just go down the street. The problem will move to the next bar.”

According to Hill, Cahoots patrons have changed in the past eight months following the closure of Phoenix Hill Tavern in the Highlands and Jim Porter’s Good Time Emporium near Cherokee Park, along with recent shootings in and around Cole’s Place at 29th and West Kentucky streets.

“Most of the patrons (at Cahoots) now are African-American, at least on weekends. These are African-Americans coming for a safe place to drink, a safe place to socialize,” he said. “But they brought along with them some of the bad element.”

“I think that the Highlands white community doesn’t like the West End African-American community coming out there in large numbers, and it is causing conflict,” he added.

Longtime Highlands business owner Bill Fowler said that’s not the case.

“I don’t think it is a matter about a bunch of white people mad about black people,” said Fowler, owner of William Deans Salon. “We have got a group of people hanging out and doing drugs and selling drugs and beating people up. I don’t care what color they are.”

Last week, Fowler attended a meeting with police and business owners at O’Shea’s Irish Pub, where business owners expressed concerns about safety and talked about enforcing a dress code and increasing police presence along Bardstown Road.

“The Highlands is all about peace and love. It’s not about fighting and anger. The Highlands can get along with everybody if they want to be part of this community and not be something that is going to try to destroy it,” Fowler said.

Cahoots attorney Hill said one solution to violence and crime in the Highlands is to limit bar hours to 2 a.m.

At least on that point, the Original Highlands Neighborhood Association and he can agree.

In the letter to Louisville’s ABC, the association stated it has always opposed allowing any establishment, not just Cahoots, to sell alcohol until 4 a.m. The association requested that if Cahoots should close, local ABC officials limit the liquor license of any business that might replace it to a 2 a.m. license.

Corrections: The original version of this story stated Cole’s Place had closed, which is not the case. Also, the age of the underage patron discovered at Cahoots during last year’s police raid was 19, which previously was misreported. IL regrets the errors.

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]