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 at the center of fights and crime. | By Caitlin Bowling

The fate of Cahoots is now up to a judge.

Following two hours of testimony and arguments from opposing attorneys at an Alcoholic Beverage Control hearing on Tuesday, Judge Pete Karem now must decide whether to revoke the Bardstown Road bar’s liquor license. He did not have a timeline for when he would hand down a decision.

Cahoots is in trouble again after police recently found drugs in the establishment and owner Marcia Cain failed to post uniformed off-duty police officers outside each night, a course of action agreed upon by ABC officials and Cain after previous troubles at Cahoots.

Cain admitted that for several days after the order took effect, she did not have officers at Cahoots. “A couple of them told me they would come, and they didn’t show up,” she testified during the hearing.

However, Cain said she has had anywhere from four to seven people, a mix of private security and off-duty officers, working at Cahoots each weekend since. The security personnel are responsible for checking IDs, patting down people before they enter, and breaking up any trouble when it arises.

“She has complied with the agreed order scrupulously,” said Cain’s attorney, Thomas E. Clay, of Clay Daniel Walton & Adams PLC. He did acknowledge that the judge likely will institute some type of consequence, be it a fine or other measure, regardless of whether he revokes Cahoots’ liquor license.

A couple of witnesses for the city — including a police officer and a Louisville ABC investigator — testified during the hearing that they smelled marijuana in Cahoots and found drugs on two different employees at Cahoots this summer. One also said she was told by a Louisville Metro police officer that he did not see uniformed off-duty cops outside Cahoots for a two-week period.

Larry Osterhage, the attorney representing the city, noted that Louisville ABC required Cahoots to hire the off-duty officers because of violence and drugs at the bar.

The Original Highlands Neighborhood Association and Louisville Metro Police Department both stated previously that they have problems with Cahoots.

LMPD complained that Cahoots has become a nuisance and raised concerns about illegal drug activity taking place at the bar. The neighborhood association sent a letter to the local ABC in August also talking about violence and drug activity that they believe were tied to Cahoots.

“This isn’t a first or second offense but a third,” Osterhage said. “It is time to stop it. If Ms. Cain can’t stop it, and her security can’t stop it, then we ask the court to do so.”

He added that Cain only started cleaning up Cahoots “when they felt like it behooved them.”

But Cain said she does not knowingly allow drugs or other contraband into her bar.

“They may have gotten in there,” she said. “I did not allow them on the premises.”

Two witnesses for Cain — one a Louisville Metro police officer and the other a private security worker — both testified that Cahoots had uniformed police officers in front of the bar as required during times when they were working at the bar.

LMPD officer Roberto Grider, who worked at Cahoots as an off-duty officer, testified that security was “pretty good. I have no problems.”

Jamar Goin, who stations three private security workers at Cahoots each weekend, said he has never witnessed any unruliness or arrests at Cahoots in the approximately two months his company has worked for Cain.

In response, Osterhage asked if the well-publicized fight on Bardstown Road on Aug. 16 did not qualify as unruly.

“That fight wasn’t in front of the club. It was down the block,” Goin said, adding that the fight did not start inside the club.

Also present at the hearing Tuesday were about a dozen or so supporters of Cahoots, who sat quietly in the audience.

Maxwell Mitchell, owner of music social networking company Maxwellsounds and a Cahoots regular, organized the supporters.

“I felt that if we gained support for this, it might help the cause,” Mitchell told Insider Louisville in an interview before the hearing.

Mitchell’s been a regular at Cahoots since 2009 and was drawn there because of its pool tables, he said. Since then, he has built friendships with staff and other bar-goers.

As for the claims laid against Cahoots about violence, overcrowding and drug activity, Mitchell said: “I personally haven’t seen it, but I can’t say it’s not there or anywhere.”

He added that he has heard similar complaints about drugs and violence made against a variety of other businesses in Louisville.

“I’ve seen and heard of those scenarios in many different places.”

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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]