Welcome to The Closing Bell. This week, we are taking a look back at the most-read business and culture stories of 2018.

Joe’s Older Than Dirt is returning to Lyndon (Feb. 1)

Joe’s Older Than Dirt is back to serving hearty food at friendly prices. | Photo by Sara Havens

Louisvillians must have missed Joe’s Older Than Dirt when it closed, because the news of its return spread far and wide.

The low-priced bar and restaurant closed in 2015 and later became Red Barn Kitchen, a barbecue eatery. However, the new owners may have felt the neighborhood’s yearning for Joe’s return because the Olé Restaurant Group partnered with bar owner Crescent “Cres” Bride to bring it back, though Olé still handled the menu development.

The restaurant reopened in February and is seemingly doing well, as culture editor Sara Havens found the place packed one March night.

Insider’s food critic Kevin Gibson also declared in October that “Joe’s Older Than Dirt is truly back” — even the moose.

After fire, state shuts down Kentucky Center indefinitely (June 19)

Clean-up and restoration crews worked at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

It turned out that indefinitely for the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts meant Sept. 1.

The Kentucky Center building, which is state-owned, reopened that Saturday in September after a fire in June forced the arts venue to temporarily close and cancel the PNC Broadway in Louisville show “Waitress.” Other shows were rescheduled or moved to other venues.

It is still a construction zone, particularly in the lobby, which sustained significant water damage and is expected to remain that way until fall 2019.

Work on replacing the roof, where the fire started, began this month and will continue through mid-2019, according to an email from Pamela Trautner, director of communications for the Finance and Administration Cabinet. The construction, which includes seam copper roofing and structural decking, could be delayed by weather, however.

“The work is complex and difficult due to the shape of the barrel vault and requires many extraordinary safety measures to be in place,” Trautner said in the email. “Additionally, the amount of existing roofing and structural decking that can be removed must be equal to the amount of new structural decking, insulation and temporary roofing that be installed on the same day to protect the building’s interior from damage from exposure to weather.”

While the interior repair work is expected to start in January, much of it must wait until the roof is nearly completed, she said.

The state declined to say how much damage the fire and water caused in dollars and cents as the amount “has not been fully adjusted.”

By invitation only: Meet Louisville’s power brokers (Jan. 29)

SCALA members met at Bellarmine University to hear a presentation on public safety, and media was allowed in for the first time. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Toward the beginning of 2018, Insider revealed the existence of a group of high-influence leaders in the Louisville’s business, nonprofit and religious communities who were meeting behind the scenes to talk about public safety, air service and the potential state takeover of Jefferson County Public Schools (which ended up being avoided after the state and JCPS agreed to a deal).

The group, called the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda (SCALA), was deemed “nefarious” by some — particularly as it related to public education — because they worked outside the public purview.

Following Insider’s reporting, some of its original listed members backed away from the group, including Mayor Greg Fischer, who asserted that he was never a member despite being listed on the group roster.

SCALA has remained mostly quiet since it hosted a meeting with media present in March — with one exception, that is. The Louisville Regional Airlift Development, an offshoot of SCALA, announced with much fanfare that it’d secured a new nonstop flight to Los Angeles, with the help of incentives. The flight starts in April.

Questions are being raised about Southeast Christian’s activity in west Louisville (April 19)

Phyllis Brown was one of the people who raised concerns about Southeast Christian Church.| Photo by Michael L. Jones

Concerns were raised back in April, and later in August, about Southeast Christian Church’s presence in the West End.

Multiple efforts are underway to bring investment dollars into west Louisville, which has faced historic disinvestment, but along with that comes questions about who is investing and what they’re motives may be.

Insider contributor Michael L. Jones reported that some west Louisvillians feared that Southeast Christian, a wealthy white megachurch in the East End, is looking to profit from the gentrification of West End’s low-income minority neighborhoods and doesn’t have their best interest at heart.

In August, Jones also reported on concerns about the number of sober living houses in west Louisville neighborhoods, including one with connections to Southeast Christian.

Sources: Deal to save Jewish Hospital in trouble; parties preparing for ‘Plan B’ (Sept. 21)

Jewish Hospital serves many of the city’s uninsured and under-insured residents. | Photo by Tony Pacheco

As the year draws to a close, the fate of Jewish Hospital and the deal to sell it and other KentuckyOne Health assets to New York-based hedge fund BlueMountain Capital Management remain unknown.

However, business reporter Boris Ladwig reported Thursday on a new twist: the University of Louisville may want to buy KentuckyOne’s assets with help from a partner.

KentuckyOne has kept quiet about the deal, except to say that negotiations continue. However, sources told Insider this year that some parties are preparing for Jewish Hospital to close as it continues to lose millions of dollars each month.

The closure of Jewish Hospital could have a major impact as it treats many Medicare and Medicaid patients and, for now, houses prestigious cardiovascular surgery and organ transplant programs.

Shortly before Christmas, an executive with Catholic Health Initiatives, which owns KentuckyOne, said that the health care system could have some news about its negotiations with BlueMountain early in the first quarter of 2019.

Mellow Mushroom permanently closes its Highlands location (Jan. 22)

The former Mellow Mushroom is located at 1023 Bardstown Road. | Photo by Carly Rodman

The Atlanta-based pizza chain shuttered its restaurant in the heart of the Highlands early on this year.

Mellow Mushroom did not give a reason, but culture editor Sara Havens speculated that the eatery may not have been doing enough business to make the high rental rates along Bardstown Road worth it.

In March, less than two months after Mellow Mushroom closed, the former building owner Andy Blieden sold the property to the Schulte Hospitality Group, which owns the local restaurant Joella’s Hot Chicken and a few other establishments.

Although one could make the logical leap that Joella’s Hot Chicken may open a Highlands location, there’s been no sign of renovation work, no creatures stirring, not even a mouse. Insider reached out to Schulte Hospitality Group for an update but did not hear back.

Campers braving rain for $1,800 bottle of 45-year-old bourbon (Feb. 28)

It’s going to be a long, wet day and night for these campers. | Courtesy of Frazier History Museum

People love hard-to-find bourbon — and some are willing to wait in long lines for a chance to obtain it.

This story could have easily shot into Insider’s most-read list for two reasons: specialty and rare bourbon is big news in Louisville and/or some may be wondering why anyone would want to sit in the rain for a chance to spend $1,800 (perhaps something to do with its black market value).

Either way, some stalwart individuals camped outside the Frazier History Museum in February rain for the opportunity to buy one of fewer than 150 bottles of Final Reserve: James Thompson & Brother Bourbon.

Paristown Pointe development adds $6.5 million food hall, bar and entertainment venue (March 13)

Developer Steve Smith described the addition as a food court, bar and entertainment venue. | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

The roughly $35 million Paristown Pointe development project spearheaded by Louisville Stoneware owner Steve Smith is chugging along after years of discussion and planning.

The construction of a new $12 million Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts venue started in September 2017. Other previously announced parts of the project are the $6 million renovation and expansion of Louisville Stoneware, a $1 million brewery and taproom by Goodwood Brewing Co., and a $6.5 million food hall and entertainment venue called Number 15.

It was the surprise announcement of the addition of Number 15 to the project that was among Insider’s most-read stories this year.

When asked for an update on the project, Hoagland Commercial Realtors principal broker Brian Forrest, who is a main player in the development, said in a text message that “a lot of good things” are in the works, and he hopes to have more news to share in January. He declined to comment on the status of the Goodwood taproom and Number 15 and whether they are still part of the development.

Forrest also stated via text message that the development is on track for a summer 2019 completion, meaning the goal line has again moved. Originally, the project’s leaders hoped to wrap up construction this year; that timeline was later shifted back to spring 2019.

The mystery behind the Chris and Jessica billboards is revealed (July 25)

Mightily and the Louisville Ballet are behind the billboards. | Courtesy of Mightily

Who doesn’t love a mystery?

A stir was created this summer when billboards with what seemed to be text message between a couple popped up around Louisville. People speculated widely about who the couple, Chris and Jessica, could be, what the messages meant and what the billboards could be an advertisement for.

Theories ranged from a movie advertisement to one for a law office. One person suggested that Chris had mesothelioma and was entitled to a settlement.

It was later revealed that marketing agency Mightily crafted the billboard campaign for the Louisville Ballet’s Season of Romance, which included a modern-day version of “Romeo and Juliet,” putting to bed a mystery that kept Louisvillians talking for a couple of weeks last summer.

Finn’s Southern Kitchen closes suddenly (Jan. 2)

The brown leather, redone floors and shiplap create a more relaxed, Southern atmosphere at Couvillion. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

One of Insider’s first stories of the year was the abrupt closure of Finn’s Southern Kitchen at Germantown Mill Lofts that took all, or at least many, by surprise.

The restaurant, located at 1318 McHenry St., opened in May 2016 and was managed by the restaurateur Steve Clements.

Comments were made about possibly reformulating the concept and reopening, but ultimately, chef Paul Skulas took the helm and in mid-April opened a different kind of Southern restaurant, Couvillion.

Skulas swapped out the modern décor for a more casual feel and the Southern comfort food for cajun-style Southern cuisine influenced from his time working for chef John Currence.

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