Since opening Meta in 2013, owner Jeremy Johnson has been sitting on 1,400 square feet of unused space that formerly served as the back room of a strip club. He’s paying homage to that former tenant and creating a unique opportunity for patrons to take bottles to go — and much more — when he opens a liquor store in that space called Show & Tell this spring.
Meta is a bustling downtown spot for classic and original cocktails, and it serves both tourists and residents alike. By being situated on Chestnut Street between Fifth and Fourth streets, Johnson says his clientele is an equal mix of those staying in nearby hotels and Louisvillians looking for a chill environment with a top-notch cocktail program.
Meta occupies the front half of the building at 425 W. Chestnut St., roughly 1,000 square feet, and the back half Johnson and staff have used as storage and office space. They’ve had many ideas over the years of what to turn it into — from a speakeasy to a kitchen — but a liquor store just seemed like the best choice, Johnson tells Insider.
“With all the hotels in the immediate area and our passion for unique cocktails, it’s just a no-brainer,” he says.
Although some might chuckle at the name Show & Tell and its reference to a former strip club, that moniker is actually the perfect fit for what Johnson envisions the retail shop to be.
Along with the usual staples of a liquor store — wine, beer and spirits in various price ranges — the store also will carry rare cocktail modifiers like bitters and aperitifs, proper bar tools and books on the industry, as well as offer cocktail classes.
So in essence, Johnson explains, between Meta and Show & Tell, his staff can show you how to make a proper drink, tell you about its ingredients and origins, and also provide all the essential elements to make it at home.
“We’ll have all the same trappings of a liquor store, as well as all the high-end elements Meta uses in its cocktails,” he says. “The challenge will be to find a balance and see what people are interested in the most.”
Johnson envisions the space looking a little trippy like the Black Lodge in “Twin Peaks,” and he’s already ordered 300 yards of red velvet fabric to achieve that. He’ll also be putting in that dizzying Chevron-style flooring and will do most of the renovations himself, along with help from his brother-in-law.
One fun little feature he’s thinking about doing is turning two former mirrored private dance rooms into the sparkling wine section of the liquor store — yes, creating a literal “Champagne Room.”
Johnson will add more staff once the store opens, and one of his bartenders, Amy Fisher — who just won second place in Whisky Magazine’s Bartender of the Year/Icons of Whisky Awards — will take on more managerial duties and have partial ownership. The liquor store portion will stay open until 2 a.m. every night.
Once Meta receives its package liquor store license, most likely in early March, it can start selling beer, liquor and wine to go. And in the meantime, Johnson and his crew will be working on the back room. He’d like to have Show & Tell ready to open by late March, but realistically, it may be more like April or May.
“I’ll use the classic Louisville adage and say, ‘Before Derby,’” he says.