Once Club 21 and later the Pour Haus and most recently the Cure Lounge, the structure at the corner of South Shelby Street and Burnett Avenue is about to start a new life as the 21st Amendment Tavern.
The space has been extensively renovated and decorated with a Prohibition-era theme — hence its name as a nod to the amendment that ended “The Noble Experiment” — including antique décor, like a vintage cash register salvaged from the Whirlaway Tavern, a longtime South End dive bar.
The target opening date is April 10.
For starters, the perimeter walls have been stripped down to the original exposed brick. Co-owner Andrea Estes-Riegling — who purchased the property with partners Robert Hudson and C.T. Hectus — says taking it back to as close to its original state as possible was the goal along.
“I worked here in the 2000s,” she says. “I knew what was under the drywall and chaos.”
The interior of the bar has been decked out in dark wood accents, with an L-shaped bar that has a pair of fireplace mantels built into the structure — one behind the bar, another attached at one end.
Also in the bar area are three two-top booths that overlook Shelby Street, plus four four-top tables.
In a central room are five two-tops and six four-tops, along with light fixtures made from bourbon barrel rings and a ceiling mural inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”
Wall sconces are made from small bourbon barrels, and the drop ceiling includes faux tin tiles that resemble the original tin roofs many Louisville structures of the time period had.
A custom entryway has been added, in part to help keep the interior separated from the elements. But it also serves as a preview to what lies inside, with a copper still and an old street lamp being among the first things visitors will see.
Of course, one of the main reasons for 21st Amendment Tavern’s theme is that the building dates back to 1887, when it originally was the Zeigler Family Grocery & Saloon. Estes-Riegling says, incredibly, she is only the third owner of the building.
She says she has documented proof it is the oldest continuously operated saloon in the city — Mellwood Tavern also has made that claim — and that she feels there was bootlegging activity on the site during Prohibition, citing “cavernous basements” that stretch to either street along the property.
“We think this place had a lot going on during that time period,” says Estes-Riegling.
While the main part of the tavern looks to be fully renovated and ready to go — expect nightly karaoke — space in back that will be used for live music is still undergoing work. The back room’s tie-in to Louisville history is cemented in a floor that Estes-Riegling says is from the roller rink used at Fontaine Ferry Park, an amusement park that existed in west Louisville from 1905 to 1969.
The upstairs part of the bar also will be renovated and converted into a lounge area and private events space, with a pair of spiral staircases being added to connect the upstairs with the main floor.
The new business will offer a full menu of food, serving lunch and dinner, with Estes-Riegling, a former chef at Buck’s Restaurant and former owner of Rock That Plate Café, serving as head chef.
She says a daily plate lunch special will be offered, along with burgers, salads, desserts, nightly steak and seafood specials, and fried chicken dinners every Friday and Saturday night. Prices will have “an eye on affordable.”
“We will try to speak to everyone, whether that be generationally or economically,” she says.
At the bar, expect a rotating craft cocktail program along with craft beer selections.
Estes-Riegling grew up and still lives in the Germantown-Schnitzelburg area, so in her view, being able to restore the building at 1481 S. Shelby St. is part honor and part duty.
“We are of this community,” she says. “We believe this is a restoration of this building, and we hope it lasts another 500 years.”