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.

Short-term rental registries remain low heading into 2017

Each marker represents a home listed as available for rent on Homeaway. | Courtesy of Homeaway

Applications for short-term rentals continue to slowly roll in.

Effective Aug. 1, 2016, the city started requiring permits for property owners who use sites such as Homeaway and Airbnb to rent their homes. Homeowners can now apply for the $25 permit online.

As of Sept. 1, only 25 people had applied for permits from the city, Insider Louisville reported previously. While that number has increased since, it is nowhere near the estimated 1,200 people who rented their homes on Airbnb in 2016 — a total that doesn’t include other home rental websites.

A spokesman with Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government said that some people might be holding off if they don’t rent their home out regularly.

Invariably, there also will be those who only rent their house out once or twice a year during major events and will look to skirt the city ordinance requiring the permit.

According to Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, the city has received 95 applications for a short-term rental permit. Of those, 79 are active, three are awaiting fee payments and three others are awaiting review. The remaining 10 were denied for the following reasons:

  1. The short-term rental was located in a place such as Anchorage, St. Matthews, Prospect or Jeffersontown that has its own zoning authority. Because those neighborhoods don’t have regulations regarding short-term rentals, it’s illegal to rent home in those areas, but some still do.
  2. The property was not a single-family residence or duplex. (Commercially zoned properties can be rented out with a permit as long as they are within 200 feet of a park, within 0.75 miles of a public park and within a mile of a National Register District or local Preservation District.)
  3. The property required a conditional use permit. Applying for a permit can cost as much as $1,155.50.

A property owner must go through the more extensive process of applying for a conditional use permit if the property is located in the Old Louisville or Limerick neighborhoods. In most cases, if a person wants to rent out a home that is not their primary residence, he or she also will need to apply for a conditional use permit.

Despite the added cost and time required to obtain a conditional use permit, nearly 30 property owners have decided its worth it to benefit from the added income renting a home brings in.

The city has issued four conditional use permits for short-term rentals and 23 other are pending review, according to metro.

Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government has webpage with a wealth of information about short-term rentals, including how to apply for a permit, whether someone must obtain a conditional use permit and how to remit taxes to the city, among other frequently asked questions. —Caitlin Bowling

Landlords required to register rental housing

The owners of rental properties such as Urban Flats downtown will need to register with the city. | Courtesy of Village Green

Speaking of rentals, Louisville Metro Council last year passed an ordinance that requires landlords to register their rental properties, no matter how small.

The registration form is now online and can be submitted electronically. Anyone renting a property — from a single-family home to a multifamily high-rise — must register their properties and contact information with the city by March 1.

Registering is free, but the penalty for not registering is a fine of up to $100 a day.

While some apartment owners complained, metro council members noted that other cities, including Indianapolis, Austin, Memphis and Pittsburgh, have similar registries.

The registry aims to help the city track down the responsible party if a property falls into disrepair and violates any building codes. Before the ordinance was passed, councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton (D-5) said she hoped the registry would allow the city to crack down on slumlords who take advantage of poor or older residents.

Rob Kirchdorfer, director of Louisville Metro’s Department of Codes and Regulations, said city inspectors regularly had trouble tracking down the responsible party, especially if the property is owned by a Limited Liability Corporation.

“A lot of times this can all be resolved with a simple phone call,” he said. —Caitlin Bowling

New Albany taco joint closes suddenly

Taco Steve sold tacos, burritos, quesadillas and other Mexican staples. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Taco Steve is gone but maybe not for good.

Owner Steve Powell posted on Facebook that the fast-casual Mexican joint is closed “indefinitely,” meaning the New Albany eatery could reopen in the future. However, that also means New Albanians may have to get used to living in a world in which Taco Steve no longer exists.

Powell told IL in a Facebook message that he can’t speak to the future of Taco Steve, adding that it closed because he is traveling to California “for a short time” to be with his family.

“That’s my sole priority right now,” he said.

A couple of folks on Facebook noted that a member of Powell’s family was ill.

The New Albany business started as a portable taco stand before settling in the back of Destination Booksellers, at 604 E. Spring St., in early 2016. —Caitlin Bowling

Company buying Macy’s store at Jefferson Mall following closure

Jefferson Mall is located off Outer Loop. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jefferson Mall owner CBL & Associates Properties has committed to purchasing the 157,000-square-foot store Macy’s operates in the Jefferson Mall when it closes.

Macy’s announced this week that it would close 100 of its stores in the United States, including the store at Jefferson Mall, which has been open for 38 years and has 52 employees. The closures are part of an effort to streamline Macy’s store portfolio and become more cost efficient, according to a news release from the company.

While the closings themselves are noteworthy, another interesting fact is that Macy’s actually owned some of the stores it operated in, including the store in Jefferson Mall.

CBL & Associates issued its own news release following the Macy’s announcement stating that the Macy’s at four of its properties are affected. Of those four, three of the stores are owned by Macy’s, and the company plans to pay a total of $5 million to take ownership of them. The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of this year.

“Recapturing these stores will allow us to take space that is underperforming and convert it into new retail, dining and entertainment users – driving increased traffic, sales and growth to the entire property as well as generating strong returns to CBL,” company president and CEO Stephen Lebovitz said in the release. “In anticipation of these closures, we have proactively engaged in discussions with a number of prospective users. Our next steps will be to finalize negotiations and redevelopment plans for the remaining three malls.”

CBL & Associates will make future announcements about new tenants after leases are signed, Lebovitz said in the release. Potential tenants include sporting goods, fitness centers, restaurants, theaters and entertainment concepts. —Caitlin Bowling

Another Louisville restaurant hitting the small screen

Come Back Inn is a Germantown staple. | Courtesy of Facebook

It turns out that Mussel & Burger Bar isn’t the only local eatery that will be highlighted on Food Network tonight.

The always dimly lit Italian restaurant Come Back Inn and American restaurant Gary’s On Spring also will be featured in an episode of the Food Network’s new show “Ginormous Food.” The episode is titled “Louisville’s Epic Eats” and will air at 8 p.m.

As reported, the show will feature Mussel & Burger Bar’s Double Southern Bell Burger.

At Come Back Inn in Germantown, host Josh Denny tastes The Godfather, a 12-inch sandwich soaked in au jus, with 1.5 pounds of roast beef as well as vegetables and marinara sauce. Gary’s On Spring gives “Ginormous Food” a giant taste of a Louisville classic, the hot brown. Unlike a traditional hot brown, however, the one Gary’s serves is two feet wide and weighs 10 pounds. —Caitlin Bowling

FirstBuild’s new cooktop is hot

FirstBuild has another crowdfunding hit on its hands with its Paragon Smart Cooking System, which more than doubled its $50,000 Indiegogo goal in less than 48 hours. This cooking system promises precise control. Instead of high, medium and low, it can be set to a precise temperature and controlled with the FirstBuild app.

The set comes with a cooktop, a mat that communicates with the app, a temperature probe and the bluetooth enabler. There are also larger bundles, which include pans and pots that are especially suited for magnetic-induction cooktops like the Paragon.

Preorders will start to be fulfilled in July. Prices for preorders are at a steep discount. No news on what it will retail for, but FirstBuild’s first crowdfunding hit, the Opal Nugget Ice maker’s preorder prices were up to $200 off retail. The Opal, if you remember, was funded to the tune of more than $2.7 million, 1,700 percent of its initial funding goal.

FirstBuild is the innovative GE Appliances-backed co-creation community and micro factory.

IL reached out to FirstBuild to see the Paragon in action, but many of the FirstBuilders are out in Las Vegas showing off their wares at CES. —Melissa Chipman

GE Appliances joins smoke alarm maker to prevent fires

GE Appliances has introduced smart ovens that communicate with smoke alarms, which will turn off the oven if they detect smoke or a fire.

When Nest Protect detects smoke while the connected GEA oven is on, GEA will issue a command to turn off the oven, and consumers will receive a notification on their app that the oven has been turned off.

“If the oven is turned on and Nest detects you are away, Nest will send a command and GE Appliances will send a push notification to the connected user’s phone,” GEA said in a press release.

“Our integration with Nest Protect helps us ensure that our connected oven owners are safer when cooking, especially when the oven is left unattended,” said Paul Surowiec, GEA’s vice president of cooking products.

Courtesy of GEA

GEA and other appliance manufacturers increasingly are integrating their products with consumers’ mobile devices. GEA previously had announced that some of its products notify consumers when their filter needs to be changed and can automatically order fabric softener online.

Nest Protect is a smoke alarm with an industrial-grade smoke sensor that tests itself automatically and lasts up to a decade. It retails for about $100.

GEA is based at Appliance Park in Louisville and has about 6,000 employees there. Boris Ladwig

Who’s been funded?

EnterpriseCorp’s Lisa Bajorinas updated the folks at the monthly Venture Connectors Luncheon on “who’s been funded?” for Dec. 2016. Turns out to be a short list.

Liberate Medical, a medical device company that has developed a COPD electrotherapy machine that stimulates the abdominal muscles in between breaths, reported a $100,000 investment from Louisville’s Enterprise Angels. The device is currently not on the market.

Here’s something you don’t think about every day— it’s some company’s job to manufacture manholes. Turns out one of those companies is Louisville’s own CI Agent Solution. The company actually makes a lot more things than that, but that really stood out. CI Agent Solutions has recently been acquired by Justrite Manufacturing Company for an undisclosed amount. Justrite operates out of Des Plaines, Ill.

In 2016, there were 33 companies funded to the tune of $77.7 million. That tally is down a smidge from 2015, but, according to Bajorinas, nationally, there were fewer investments in 2016. —Melissa Chipman

F-Series buoys Ford sales, remains America’s best-selling truck

2017 F-250 Super Duty 4X4 Crew Cab Lariat. | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Co.’s December sales rose 0.3 percent, buoyed by strong demand for the F-Series pickup, which remained America’s best-selling truck for the 40th consecutive year. The truck’s heavy-duty version, the Super Duty, is made at Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

However, sales of the other Louisville-made Ford vehicle, the Escape, fell by nearly 8 percent in December.

“Our retail sales were up 5 percent and that was our best December retail sales performance since 2004. And that was really led by Ford SUV’s and also trucks,” said Ford Sales Analyst Erich Merkle.

In total, Ford sold 239,654 vehicles in December, up 612 from a year earlier. For the year, the Dearborn, Mich.-based company sold 2.6 million vehicles, essentially unchanged from the year before — though, Ford says the result was its best in a decade.

Ford said it remains America’s best-selling vehicle brand, though General Motors said that its market share grew 0.5 percent last year.

Ford buyers in December continued to move away from cars and toward SUVs. Car sales in December fell more than 14 percent, with sales for the best seller, the Fusion, declining 25 percent. SUV sales advanced 4.6 percent, with demand for the Edge, the second-most selling SUV, after the Escape, spiking nearly 24 percent. Truck sales improved 3.2 percent. The F-Series accounts for nearly 80 percent of truck sales.

For the year, car sales fell 14 percent, SUV sales improved 4.3 percent, and truck sales rose 6.5 percent. Ford in 2016 sold 307,069 Escapes, up 0.2 percent from 2015. F-Series sales rose 5.2 percent, to 820,799. Boris Ladwig

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