Emmanuel (photo by Kevin Gibson)
Emmanuel Dumigron (photo by Kevin Gibson)

Emmanuel Dumigron builds and restores vintage motorcycles, so he likes a good project. But Louis’s the Ton, a new pub he is opening with his wife, Helen, in Butchertown, may be one of his biggest yet.

Operating as Johnson’s Tavern (or Johnson’s Bait and Beer, depending on who you ask) since the 1960s, the old building at the corner of Story and Frankfort avenues has simply seen better days.

“Basically, it was falling apart,” Dumigron said. The plumbing had so many holes that it is being completely replaced, and much of the structure is being rebuilt. The layers of ceilings have also been removed, and the original ceiling framework redone and reinforced.

Johnson's Tavern
Johnson’s Tavern

Dumigron promises better days are ahead. The balance is finding a way to keep the feel of the old Butchertown neighborhood in the building. That’s where Dumigron’s experience with vintage cycles comes in.

“I look to the original side of things, but I also look to the mechanical side of things,” he said.

Once the place is ready, however – Dumigron expects to open in February – the neighborhood can expect something quite different from bait and cheap beer. The concept for Louis’s the Ton is that of a European-style public house, with 75 craft beers, signature cocktails, and a bit of Dumigron’s hometown of Paris, France.

Louis's the Ton interior
Louis’s the Ton interior

“I want to infuse my travels and experience,” he said.

The Dumigrons moved to Louisville just under a year ago from Asheville, N.C., which has a thriving dining and social scene. In other words, expect some cool factor at Louis’s the Ton.

Emmanuel Dumigron

For instance, since the building is not equipped with a kitchen, fare at the pub will feature cold plates – appetizers and tapas such as cheeses, meats and sausages, olives, chocolate and even bacon.

“It will be nothing like in NuLu or anywhere else,” Dumigron said. “In Paris, you go from work directly [to a pub] to have a pre-dinner drink and appetizer to get your mouth watering.”

And while there, you talk with friends or whomever happens to be sitting next to you. That’s what Louis’s the Ton is all about. As such, instead of TVs lined up behind the bar and along the walls and tuned to sports, you’ll likely see vintage footage projected onto a wall, from old burlesque to vintage cartoons.

Dumigron said big events such as Derby or the Super Bowl will be projected, but for the most part Louis’s will have a public house feel with minimal distractions.

“Good vibes,” he said. “That’s our thing. We want people to interact with each other.”

According to a WDRB report, the Dumigrons purchased the building for $165,000 and are investing another $100,000 in renovations. Those renovations will include a new bar, lounge space, walk-in cooler, lighting and a long hallway leading to barn-style doors and an open-roof beer garden.

Louis's the Ton rendering
Louis’s the Ton rendering

Dumigron also said he is committed to not just being open for business, but for being part of the neighborhood. Hours will typically be 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 p.m.-midnight on Sunday, but three days a week he will offer the space for private events from noon to 4 p.m.

Whether it’s an office event or a birthday party, the place will be made available at no cost.

“I’ll just man the bar,” he said, and use of the space will be free. Not a bad way to make friends in his new community.

Reasonable prices won’t hurt, either, and that is another aspect of Louis’s the Ton that Dumigron seems committed to. He’ll have 10 taps, and he envisions some draft prices to be as low as $2.50.

“Four dollars for a Coors beer is a little high for my taste,” Dumigron said. “This isn’t the Highlands; we’re Butchertown.”

In addition, a local brewer, Corey Riley, is creating a craft beer – Bacon Maple Stout – just for Louis’s.

Add to the mix regular live music, and Dumigron hopes he has created a concept that will attract people from all over the area, in addition to being a good neighbor.

Getting back to Dumigron’s love of vintage motorcycles, many wonder about the odd name of the place.

“Louisville’s name comes from King Louis XVI, and my father is named Louis,” he explained. “’The Ton’ is related to motorcycles – ‘doing the ton’ means going 100 miles per hour on a vintage motorcycle.”

Once Louis’s opens, look for Dumigron to never let up on the accelerator.

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Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies. Email Kevin at [email protected]

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