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.

Logan Street Market seeking vendors, construction could start soon

Construction on an open-air market in Shelby Park could begin as early as next month, according to Mike Safai, the businessman who’s pushing to make it a reality.

Safai, owner of the coffee roastery Safai Coffee, told Insider in August about his determination to create a 25,000-square-foot open-air market in Louisville similar to Findlay Market in Cincinnati. Now, he’s considerably closer.

The market, which he is now calling Logan Street Market, will be located at 900 E. Kentucky St. in 51,035-square-foot warehouse that also serves as Safai Coffee’s headquarters, offices for the Hawthorn Beverage Group and a commissary for Wiltshire Pantry.

Safai has been working with city Planning and Design Services staff to get the ball rolling on the open-air market and is hopeful that construction workers will be able to start building out the market within a few weeks. The market is expected to open this spring.

Logan Street Market will be a place where farmers and other food vendors can sell fresh produce, meats, baked goods, prepared food and other items, as well as a space where people can take cooking classes and attend performances, how-to seminars and community-focused events. While not part of the market, Safai also plans to open a small brewery at the warehouse.

Right now, “the main focus is finding vendors and people who want to open their own shop” at the market, said Sarah Height, director of marketing and communications for the project.

Safai also is seeking people and entities to sponsor individual booths to cover the cost of outfitting the booth and defray construction costs. Previously, he estimated that it will cost $500,000 to retrofit the warehouse, which includes adding barn doors that connect the market to the sidewalk, buying coolers for cold goods, and building the individual stalls with sinks and a shared kitchen space.

All 33 booths will have utilities included in the rental rate, and rates will vary depending on the location in the market and type of vendor. Interested parties can email [email protected]

Non-food vendors on the second floor will pay about $600 a month. Producer vendors will pay $800 a month, and business people looking to open a small deli, prepared food booth, meat counter or similar shop will pay anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500 a month. An example of the latter would be Taste of Belgium, which has a full-scale restaurant as well as a counter at Findlay Market.

Logan Street Market also will offer outdoor booths at a lower rate of $25 a day or $300 a month. —Caitlin Bowling

Access Ventures partners with VSCO app to offer $100,000 in grants to artists

VSCO is a photography app.

Five lucky artists will each receive $20,000 in funding if selected by VSCO Voices, a new grant program created by Louisville’s Access Ventures investment firm and VSCO, a national photography-based app.

The program will begin taking applications from interested artists around the country beginning Feb. 5.

“Together with VSCO, we believe that creators are amongst the best equipped to spread and awaken diverse perspectives,” states the Access Ventures press release. “This is why we bring you a new grant program that supports creators who use art to empower marginalized communities in the United States.”

The six-month program will run April through November, and the winners will be chosen on thoughtfulness, passion and continued commitment to his or her community project. The only stipulations are you must be at least 18 years old and live in the U.S. —Sara Havens

Chef Edward Lee launches nonprofit to support female chefs

Chef Edward Lee owns fine dining restaurants Milkwood and 610 Magnolia. | File Photo

Chef Edward Lee announced on his Instagram account Thursday that he, along with 610 Magnolia general manager Lindsey Ofcacek, have started a nonprofit initiative called The Lee Initiative.

“In light of the heartbreaking stories of sexual harassment in our industry, it became clear that we had to do something more than just make a statement,” Lee wrote. “I believe that, at its core, the restaurant industry is still a place of community, compassion and hospitality. And the future of our industry will rest upon the vital role of empowered women who will lead with strength, fairness and respect.”

The initiative will offer mentorship and travel opportunities to young female chefs in Kentucky, as well as a chance to cook at the prestigious James Beard Foundation.

Lee acknowledged that The Lee Initiative is not a solution to the problem but said he wanted to do something positive.

“I am a male chef, and I have benefited from the system, a system I did not create but nonetheless one that made my path an easier one to follow. It is time we create more paths for women in our industry,” Lee wrote. “I know this is not my story to tell. I am thankful for the voices of women who have already spoken out, especially chefs like Amanda Cohen, Lisa Donovan, Katie Button, Ashley Christensen, Dominique Crenn, Asha Gomez, Jenn Louis, Tiffani Faison and many more.”

Lee, who moved from Louisville to Washington D.C. last year, owns Milkwood and 610 Magnolia here and is opening a third restaurant at Fourth Street Live called Whiskey Dry, which is expected to open anytime now. —Caitlin Bowling

Louisville airfare higher than the national average

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics tracks airfares and passenger volume. | Courtesy of United Airlines

The average domestic flight out of Louisville International Airport cost $59 more than the national average, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The report looked at airfares and traffic leaving the top 100 airports in the country during the third quarter of 2017.

Domestic flights out of Louisville cost an average of $395. The national average is $335.83.

Louisville International Airport ranking 16th most expensive out of 46 airports with passenger volumes between 99,999 and 500,000. It had 224,630 passengers who originated from the airport during the third quarter.

Compared to other larger regional airports, Louisville has the priciest domestic flights on average. Nashville’s third quarter average was $350; Indianapolis’ average was $336; and Cincinnati’s airfare was the lowest at $301. All three of them also have passenger volumes ranging from 499,999 to 1 million.

The average domestic airfare at Lexington’s small airport was $419 during the third quarter of 2017.

On a positive note, the average domestic airfare in Louisville declined 6.8 percent when compared to the third quarter of 2016. The national average dropped 5.7 percent during the same period. —Caitlin Bowling

Jefferson’s Bourbon partners with Bardstown Bourbon Co.

Some of the Jefferson’s Bourbon portfolio. | Courtesy of Castle Brands

Although Jefferson’s Bourbon is based out of the Kentucky Artisan Distillery in Crestwood, it was announced this week that the brand will be working with the new Bardstown Bourbon Company‘s Collaborative Distilling Program to add custom-made bourbons and whiskeys to its portfolio.

Jefferson’s, which is owned by Castle Brands, will begin to distill some of its products at BBCo this year in order to keep up with consumer demand.

“We know that Bardstown’s experienced distilling team will provide the continuity needed to produce the consistent taste profile that our discerning Jefferson’s consumers have come to expect,” said John Glover, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Castle Brands, in a press release.

Members of the Jefferson’s team will work alongside BBCo master distiller Steve Nally, a legend in the distilling industry.

BBCo sits on 100 acres of land in Bardstown and features a $25 million distillery. It’ll soon produce its own bourbon and whiskeys, but one of its key components is the Collaborative Distilling Program that allows craft distillers — and even larger companies like Jefferson’s — custom make their own spirits using state-of-the-art equipment and talent.

(Insider got a tour of the facility and distillery before it opened in 2016.)

Jefferson’s will continue operating out of the Kentucky Artisan Distillery. —Sara Havens

Best Places to Work in Kentucky winners are announced

Metro United Way tweeted out on Thursday afternoon that it was one of the best places to work in Kentucky, saying, “Our staff knew this already but today it was announced that has been named one of 2018’s BEST PLACES TO WORK in Kentucky!”

The list of 100 companies is compiled the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Kentucky Society for Human Resource Management. Rankings will be released at an awards dinner Tuesday, April 17, at Heritage Hall in the Lexington.

Some of the other Louisville companies to make the list include Advance Payroll Systems, Appriss, Middleton Reutlinger, Dean Dorton, L&N Federal Credit Union, Hosparus Health, Sullivan University System and more.

In the meantime, the full list has been released in alphabetical order. According to a news release, winners are selected in three areas: small companies (15-149 employees), medium companies (150-499) and large companies (over 500). —Mickey Meece

Humana says tax law boosting pay rates

Humana said that it would share with its employees some of the financial gain it is projecting from the recently adopted tax law.

The Louisville-based insurer said that it would raise the minimum hourly wage rate in the continental U.S. for full- and part-time employees to $15. The insurer could not be reached to say what the current minimum wage is or how many employees would be affected.

In addition, Humana said that it was moving up, by one year, the payouts for employees participating in its performance-based incentive program. The company could not be reached to say how many employees participate in the program. The minimum incentive target is 4 percent of the base salary of 2018, with payouts scheduled for March 2019.

In an emailed statement, Humana said that like many U.S. companies, it “will begin benefitting this year from a lower corporate income tax rate” and that it would use the proceeds “to further the long-term financial health and well-being of our employee population.”

The company said it also was “considering additional investments designed to benefit our health plan members and the communities we serve, and designed to create an earnings benefit for our shareholders.”

Human cut 2,700 jobs toward the end of 2017. —Boris Ladwig

In Brief

AT&T said it had expanded its high-speed internet service to rural and underserved locations in parts of 51 counties serving more than 37,000 Kentucky locations. In addition, the company said AT&T Fiber was now available in 100,000 locations in Louisville and Central Kentucky, with connections approaching 1 gigabit per second.

R & R Limousine was recently selected as the KFC Yum! Center’s official chauffeured transportation company for the fourth consecutive year.

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