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Louisville Group Tasked With Bolstering Bourbon, Food Tourism in City

Mayor Greg Fischer has formed a work group charged with finding ways to promote Louisville as a top destination for food and spirits.The plan will include creating a downtown bourbon tourism center for people to catch buses to visit distilleries throughout Kentucky. The idea is, in part, to make the city the "gateway of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail," which drew 509,292 visitors in 2012.“What Napa Valley is to food and wine, I want Louisville to be to food and bourbon,” Fischer said Monday in a statement announcing the Bourbon and Food Work Group.“With the right strategy and intentional approach, I believe we can grow this segment very rapidly over the coming years. That puts money in our economy and creates jobs for our citizens.”Downtown Louisville is already getting bourbon-related draws withincoming distilleries from Angel's Envy, Michter's and others.The Bourbon and Food Work Group's task is to come up with ideas to create a "seamless tourist experience"—something Napa has infrastructure for around wine that Louisville doesn't have around bourbon, said Chris Poynter, a spokesman for the mayor.What the infrastructure means, aside from the tour bus hub, will be up to the work group. Some of the bourbon/food recommendations may require city funding or private investment, Poynter said. Others may regard making things that already exist work better together. (Tax questions, which are generally up to the state, will likely be outside the work group's realm, Poynter added.)The work group will be the first time representatives from food, bourbon and tourism have all sat around the same table, said Poynter, noting that the city is getting more tourists for just bourbon attractions.Rick Robinson from Wild Turkey and Kathy Cary of Lily's restaurant will co-chair the work group. Other members include Rob and Bill Samuels from Maker's Mark, J.K. McKnight from the Forecastle Festival, Summer Auerbach from Rainbow Blossom and Edward Lee from the restaurants 610 Magnolia and Milkwood. (A full list of members is included at the end of this story.)They'll have four months to craft a plan "to promote Louisville as the best culinary and beverage city in the world," which in turn attract tourism, the city said. The plan would include initiatives to be implemented by the city, businesses and others.Fischer was scheduled to make the announcement Monday at Bourbons Bistro on Frankfort Avenue. Here are the work group members:Bourbon industry·         Eric Gregory, Kentucky Distillers Assoc.·         Rick Robinson, Wild Turkey·         Rob Samuels, Maker’s Mark·         Larry Kass, Heaven Hill·         Chris Morris, Brown-Forman·         Marty Snyder, Distilled Spirits Epicenter·         Mike Veach, Filson Club/bourbon historianCulinary/restaurant/food industry·         Stacy Roof, Kentucky Restaurant Association·         Bill Lynch, Louisville Originals·         Edward Lee, 610 Magnolia and Milkwood·         Kathy Cary, Lily’s·         Dean Corbett, Equus/Jack’s Lounge and Corbett’s: An American Place·         Vincenzo Gabriele, Vincenzo’s·         Karter Lewis, Hillbilly Tea·         Anthony Lamas, Seviche·         Susan Hershberg, Wiltshire Pantry·         Levon Wallace, Proof on Main·         Looi Peng, Asiatique·         Rhonda Kamar, Ramsi’s Café on the World·         Ivor Chodkowski, Harvest·         Philip Ruskin, Ruskin International·         Summer Auerbach, Rainbow BlossomTourism·         Mike Howerton, Convention and Visitors Bureau·         Stacey Yates, Convention and Visitors Bureau·         Cleo Battle, Convention and Visitors Bureau·         Mike Mangeot, Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet·         Amanda Storment, Kentucky State Fair Board·         Brad Walker, Louisville Hotel & Lodging Association·         Ghislain d’Humières, Speed Museum·         JK McKnight, Forecastle FestivalEconomic development·         James Reddish, Greater Louisville Inc.·         Rebecca Matheny, The Downtown Partnership·         Bill Samuels, The Downtown Partnership and Maker’s Mark·         Steve Campbell, finance expert·         Ceci Conway, IdeaFestival and consultant·         Stephen Reily, entrepreneur and local foods investorFischer has previously assigned work groups, task forces and their ilk to examine issues including violence prevention,the future ofmerged Jefferson County-Louisville government, and collaboration between the Metropolitan Sewer District and the Louisville Water Co.

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.