Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

Rabbit Hole_Ext. Day Render copy 2
Rendering showing a view from East Market Street | Courtesy Rabbit Hole Distilling

At a meeting of the NuLu Business Association earlier this week, Rabbit Hole Distilling partner Kaveh Zamanian for the first time presented renderings of the distillery his company has proposed to build at the former Disney Tire building.

The response? Awe.

The renderings, two of which are presented here publicly for the first time, show a facility that would transform the streetscape on both sides of the property. Oriented toward East Market Street, the micro-distillery would feature a grand entrance, with a pedestrian walkway, plenty of open space, and steel shipping containers with small-scale retail operations inside (not unlike Copper & Kings in Butchertown). Zamanian and business partner Mike Safai, of the eponymous coffee company, also are purchasing a lot near the Green Building to accommodate the welcome area.

The main buildings would have the appearance — from some angles — of being connected by a cantilevered deck. One is the Disney Tire building, which fronts Jefferson Street; the building to the east would be new construction.

Zamanian said the East Jefferson Street side of the complex would also seek to expand the streetscape, offering street-level access and opening up a key stretch of East Market’s commercial strip up to the next block south. Outdoor silos are seen dotting the property, which would encompass a section of the alley between Jefferson and Market streets.

Rendering: Looking westward at the proposed Rabbit Hole Distillery | Courtesy Rabbit Hole Distilling
Rendering: Looking westward at the proposed Rabbit Hole Distillery | Courtesy Rabbit Hole Distilling

The group, who earlier this year hired (fer) Studio, the California-based architecture firm behind the Green Building, expects to spend more than $12 million on the distillery, Zamanian said. It would be open for public tours and include some atypical amenities, including a community garden, a living roof and an artists’ co-op.

“We’re really trying to showcase what is beautiful about whiskey,” Zamanian said.

The distillery is expected to produce both whiskies and coffee, as Safai will move his La Grange coffee roasting operation to the new shop. Rabbit Hole plans to offer premium and super-premium bourbons and will have products on the shelf when the distillery opens sometime next year. Earlier this year, they released five varieties of moonshine, and Zamanian said they’ve been working with New Riff Distillery in Newport to develop a bourbon and rye in advance of the NuLu distillery.

Rebecca Matheny, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership, which has worked with Rabbit Hole as the project developed, called it a “dynamic asset for both NuLu and downtown’s burgeoning bourbon attractions. The owners are going to be terrific partners in the community, and we’re looking forward to supporting this terrific project.”

Turnaround complete, The Colony Center sells for nearly $2.4 million

Courtesy PRG Investments
Courtesy PRG Investments

A St. Matthews boutique shopping center that once was a lumberyard and had fallen on hard times during the recession, bottoming out in pre-foreclosure receivership and less than half-full just a few years ago, sold this week after a turnaround led by Louisville-based Arcadia Communities.

The Colony Center went for $2.37 million to a development group led by Louisvillian Chad Middendorf after a two-year revitalization by Arcadia, whose chairman is Atria founder Bruce Lunsford. The sale was brokered by David Kern of PRG Commercial Property Advisors.

PRG, whose offices are located at The Colony Center, has a history with the property. When the shopping center was placed into receivership several years ago, PRG President and Principal Reed Weinberg was in a receiver position between the partnership that formerly owned it and the bank. His firm helped bring Arcadia, which specializes in independent and assisted living facilities for seniors, on board. It was an unusual move for Arcadia, but Brian Durbin, the firm’s president and COO, told IL they considered it a “diamond in the rough.”

Durbin said Arcadia invested a couple hundred thousand dollars to rehabilitate the center, replacing the HVAC and making significant exterior upgrades. They also worked with tenants to establish and stabilize their businesses, eventually bringing five new companies along and leasing — with PRG — to 97 percent of capacity. Only 700 of the 23,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space there remains empty.

“It had seen its better days — it was 46 percent occupied, a couple of our tenants were cutting the grass and keeping the lightbulbs changed,” Durbin said. “It was really dying on the vine.”

They helped 211 Clover Lane expand to add a bar and private room. They brought in Yoga Integrated Science, Kathryn Gray Fine Art, The Parfumerie, Sei Bella, and Studio 3ELEVEN — all new businesses that started there. The center is also home to the Lee W. Robinson Company, Foundation Insurance, Rebecca Hook Jewelry and PRG.

So why sell a stabilized asset, particularly after a sizable investment?

“We felt the value we had built and what we were offered — we probably left a little on the table long-term, but we felt good about what we’d done, we felt good about the offer they made, and we felt they were good folks to take up the charge and continue to move it forward,” Durbin said.

Middendorf, who is managing director of CGM Capital Holdings, a medical office developer operating throughout the Midwest, has lived in Louisville since 2003. This is his first major investment in the city, and he said he’s planning on a long-term return.

“We love the location, and we love the boutique nature, the mix of tenants that are there,” he said.

Kern echoed that sentiment, citing the rarity of a stabilized asset in the middle of St. Matthews changing hands. “To go from receivership to full health in two years not only speaks of Arcadia’s acumen, but of what a beloved asset this is.”

Nowhere Bar to add new restaurant/sports bar called … wait for it … Somewhere

Somewhere will be under the Nowhere sign, in a space that is now used for storage. | Photo by Sara Havens
Somewhere will be under the Nowhere sign, in a space that is now used for storage. | Photo by Sara Havens

Nowhere Bar owner Dave Mattingly is ecstatic as he shows IL the unkempt storage space that will soon be home to a new restaurant and sports bar concept called, fittingly enough, Somewhere. As he points to exposed wires and drywall, his eyes light up describing what the bar will look like, where the pool tables will sit, and how a spare garage door will be part of a new performance stage.

Somewhere will add 2,529 square feet to the already existing 4,326-square-foot nightclub — the building at 1133 Bardstown Road formerly housed the Amazing Grace grocery store — and until now, that space has been used for storage. But Mattingly says he envisioned a restaurant since the club opened in March 2013. He just wanted to see how Nowhere would take off before investing more into Somewhere.

Mattingly says he’s hired chef Nina Snyder, formerly the executive chef at the Louisville Boat Club, to create the menu. He adds the space will be more relaxing at Somewhere, and that food service will most likely end around 10 p.m.

Mattingly has been collecting materials, barware and furniture for the new sports bar for a while now, and he bought several items recently from the Jim Porter’s auction, which is still being held in three phases. Mattingly snagged one of Jim Porter’s highly coveted bars and several tall tables and chairs. He plans to affix a plaque to that bar in Jim Porter’s honor. He also has his eyes set on the defunct bar’s infamous swing, a functional relic he’d love to resurrect in Nowhere.

Mattingly says he hopes to complete Somewhere within 90 to 120 days, and that the venue will enhance his concept of a space for all people.

“We’re a bar for all people,” he says. “We want to be Louisville’s bar, and this new place will be just as welcoming and eclectic as Nowhere.” —Sara Havens

In Brief

Aetna CEO meets with Humana managers in Louisville: IL reported Thursday on a recent meeting among Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, Humana CEO Bruce Broussard, Mayor Greg Fischer and Gov. Steve Beshear. The topic? The future of Humana if Aetna’s $37 billion pitch to acquire the local Fortune 500 company passes federal regulatory muster. During his time here, Bertolini also met with Humana managers, a gathering that was later shared via video with Humana employees, according to one of those employees. According to this source, who IL has agreed to keep anonymous, Bertolini and Broussard seemed at ease and familiar with one another, and their rapport put at least some anxious Humana workers at ease. They took questions — softballs about bourbon and more substantive inquiries about staffing and brand, which were set aside because it’s early in the process — and talked about corporate cultures. At one point, according to another source, Bertolini said: “If you think change is bad, take a look at your high school picture.”

Same-sex marriage attorneys launch legal podcast: Louisville civil rights attorneys Joe Dunman and Dan Canon have started a new podcast, “The Parade of Horribles,” dedicated to both discussing the law and having some fun discussing the law. Dunman and Canon were both plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Kentucky portion of the landmark same-sex marriage case that just cleared the way for marriage equality. Dunman is also a regular IL contributor. One episode has aired so far (hear it here). Dunman said the pair are doing the podcast mostly for their own entertainment, but also because they field so many questions about civil rights law, they thought it would be useful to answer some in the public realm. Dunman said the podcast’s name is a reference to the “slippery slope” arguments favored by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who is fond of that mode of argument, in which one decision will lead to ever-more outrageous outcomes, i.e. a parade of horribles.

He also stressed the podcast will not offer case-specific legal advice but rather will address general issues about the law, such as the difference between open carry and concealed carry for handguns. The next guest will be University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson, a mentor to Dunman and Canon. The topic will be same-sex marriage. —David Serchuk

Kentucky’s married same-sex couples can claim refunds for “overpaid taxes”: Speaking of the same-sex marriage ruling, new documents from the Kentucky Department of Revenue clear the way for same-sex couples who were married in other states to file for retroactive income tax refunds. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidating state marriage bans means married same-sex couples can now file joint or combined tax returns. Couples who file joint returns typically pay less in taxes than those who file separately and can benefit from a host of deductions and credits that are unavailable to those who file separately. According to state officials, these couples “may apply for a refund of any overpaid taxes by submitting an amended return within two years from the date the tax was paid. The state Department of Revenue also updated its rules to recognize the survivor of a married same-sex couple as the full beneficiary for inheritance tax purposes. It is not clear whether this recognition also retroactively extends to couples legally married out-of-state prior to Kentucky’s recognition of same-sex marriages. —David Serchuk

Heaven Hill releases a premium rye whiskey: Rye whiskies have been trending in the past few years (see above), and now there’s another premium brand nudging out shelf space among Woodford Rye, Bulleit Rye and others. Heaven Hill Brands announced this week it is launching a super-premium version of its Pikesville Rye in the form of Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey, a 6-year-old, 110-proof whiskey distilled from at least 51 percent rye. The new product was produced at Heaven Hill’s Bernheim Distillery in Louisville and aged in its rickhouses in Bardstown. The original Pikesville Rye was once made in Maryland and is still a top seller in Baltimore. Heaven Hill bought the brand in the 1980s and continues to sell it throughout the state. Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey will roll out in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles this summer, with more cities — including Louisville — to be added this fall. It’ll sell for a suggested $49.99. —Sara Havens

[dc_ad size="9"] [dc_ad size="10"]
Stephen George
Stephen George is news editor of Insider Louisville. He is a former editor of LEO Weekly and the Nashville City Paper, and a former news editor of the Nashville Scene. He has written for various other news and culture publications and is happy to be back in Louisville.