Expo expects to open this spring in this building across from Whiskey Row. | Google Maps

When Expo opens across from Whiskey Row later this spring, you may not get a straw in your drink or even a garnish, but it will be created by one of the top bartenders in the world.

Focusing on sustainability and ethical business practices, the lounge will feature cocktails created by Nickle Morris, who recently was with The Pontiac in Hong Kong. The bar was named on the 2018 World’s 50 Best Bars list.

Lindsey Johnson, who brought Camp Runamok to Louisville seven years ago and moved here five years ago, is opening the bar with Morris, and both are well-known in the spirits industry.

“He’s incredibly talented,” Johnson said of Morris, adding that he creates “beautifully balanced and thoughtful cocktails.”

This starts with minimizing waste, using appropriate ingredients and utilizing trusted spirits, a practice that helps defray cost and increase value to the customer. In addition, part of the focus will be on ethical business practices, inclusive employment and paying staff a competitive wage.

An 1884 poster from the Southern Exposition in Louisville | Public Domain

Inside the bar, which is located at 114 W. Main St., two doors down from Impellizerri’s Pizza, none of the furniture or décor will be new, with most of what exists from the last tenant being used along with repurposed finishes.

For instance, a set of booths that will be refinished and used in the bar came from a former barbecue restaurant in Indiana.

Essentially, Johnson says, Expo will feel like a neighborhood bar, but with a focus on excellent cocktails. She says the name is inspired by the Southern Exposition of the 1880s, a convention of technology, art, mercantiles and more that was held here in Louisville.

One of the exhibits there was what, at the time, the largest display of incandescent lighting ever assembled, which enabled visitors to enjoy the exposition during the evening as well as during the day.

In a way, Johnson says, it changed nightlife in Louisville. In addition, the wealth that developed in Old Louisville that led to the vast collection of Victorian homes came because of the proximity to the Southern Exposition.

“It’s an interesting and rich part of the history” of the city, she says. “When I moved to Old Louisville, I learned about it and said, ‘That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of.’”

Occupancy for the bar, which also will serve beer and wine, has not been set by the city, but Johnson estimated the 1,372-square-foot space should hold about 70 people comfortably, with both booths and bar seating. She adds that she and Morris are “trying desperately” to open by the end of April.

Morris’ cocktail programs have earned accolades as an expert in the field; he has taught classes in both the U.S. and Asia. Johnson, an industry educator, was named an “Imbibe 75” in the industry in 2013 by Imbibe Magazine. She also is CEO of Lush Life Productions and co-founder of Portland Cocktail Weekend.

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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]