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Planned Old Louisville Brewery Draws Mixed Reaction From Nearby Nonprofits

At the corner of South Second and Breckinridge streets, at the site of the former Old Louisville Kroger, there are rows of warehouses  and small trees that line empty sidewalks. A brewery and restaurant will soon open in this space, bringing needed revitalization to the vacant lot. But some in the community, including people at nearby addiction recovery nonprofits, are worried that the presence of alcohol will slow down recovery.

The Old Louisville Kroger closed in early 2017 leaving downtown and surrounding neighborhoods without a grocery store nearby.  Spalding University purchased the property later that year. The school recently sold it to a local commercial investment firm that plans to turn the former grocery store in to Noble Funk Brewery.

Russ Read is the executive director at Beacon House, a nonprofit that provides housing for men who’ve recently gotten out of treatment facilities. Read is concerned about having a brewery so close to Beacon House. The front door is less than a block from the old Kroger.

“To have something like that, and trying to fight this disease is really a tough thing,” Read said. “Your brain will heal itself under the right conditions and structure. But it would just take longer if you are constantly bombarded by alcohol and drugs and things of that nature.”

Beacon House alumnus Dylan Rowe agrees. Rowe said having a brewery that close to people who are new to recovery could be bad for them.

“We walk past liquor stores and things like that every day,” Rowe said. “But it’s looking out your window and seeing it at any given time. If you are new, and don’t know how the process of working a recovery program, and you just have a day where it’s like, I’m having a bad day, and you start looking out the window fantasizing [about] how you could go over there and get a drink...this is supposed to be a safe zone.”

Plans for Noble Funk Brewery are still in the early stages, said Dominque Shrader, a project manager at investment firm Domino Partners and co-owner of Noble Funk. She said the new venture is meant to be more than just a place that makes and sells alcohol.

“The brewery is definitely a component of the project, but really this project was really hoping to put something in this space that would be there for the community,” Shrader said.

She said it will be  a restaurant that will serve the brewery’s beer, but also include an outdoor green space for people to gather. The space is huge, and she’s still not sure what might go in the second half of it.

“We’re trying to develop something that would allow some sort of market or provide opportunities for farmers markets,” Shrader said. “We’re really open to all of that development.”

Read said that he’s still concerned about the alcohol component, but if the new development included a small grocery store or a coffee shop where Beacon House residents and others in recovery could work, it would be positive for the neighborhood.

Kathy Dobbins is looking forward to having a restaurant in the empty space. Dobbins is CEO of mental health provider Wellspring, which is located next to the former Old Louisville Kroger.

I'm hoping it's more of a restaurant with kind of a brew pub than is just a bar,” Dobbins said. “And I'm counting on the fact that it will be.”

Dobbins said she’s hopeful that having a busy restaurant would cut down on crime near Wellspring’s offices. She said since the Kroger closed, there have been more car break-ins and more serious crime.

“We actually had somebody robbed in that parking lot since Kroger closed, and that’s since the place has been more desolate and dark,” Dobbins said.

Family Scholar House apartments — housing for single-parent college students — are also adjacent to the old Kroger. CEO Cathe Dykstra said she agrees that having a vacant property so close to the families is a big problem.

“Vacant properties attract the wrong things, and it becomes a hazard to have what the insurance industry calls an attractive nuisance,” Dykstra said. “[Especially] that close to where you’re raising children.”

She said that while having a full-scale grocery store would have been the most desirable, the Domino Partners development could bring a lot of opportunity.

“I’m really hopeful with some of the things I’ve heard about green space and restaurant-type hours and a focus like most microbreweries on unique flavors, as opposed to a liquor store and a smoke shop that sells glass pipes,” Dykstra said. “That would be a bigger concern for me.”

Shrader with Domino Partners said they have a long way to go in getting permits and with construction. But she hopes to open in early 2020.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.

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