Pints for Parkinson’s Set to Take Over Fourth Street Live April 19

If you’re a regular at Fourth Street Live!, you know that a band playing on a stage in the street is a regular occurrence. But the party coming up April 19 marks a milestone event, as the third-annual Pints for Parkinson’s party spreads out over the entire complex.

Jason Smith, the general manager at Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant, started Pints for Parkinson’s at the 4SL spot shortly after he was diagnosed with an early onset form of the debilitating and potentially deadly disease. (If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the affliction borne by Muhammad Ali for many years.) Smith got involved in the fight against the disease by donating proceeds from one of the restaurant’s Pint Nights to the Parkinson’s Support Center of Kentuckiana. The larger party evolved from there.

Last year, at the second event, Smith’s work to promote the party resulted in one of the largest crowds in the restaurant’s history, so much that he said he couldn’t have squeezed another person inside or out onto its patio space.

“We were busting the restaurant at the seams,” said Smith, who is able to manage his disease with medication, though he suffers from occasional tremors. “We took the fence down and went out into the street.”

The party attracted the attention of Cordish executive Ed Hartless, who engordonbierschgaged in meetings with Smith to plan this year’s event, which will now encompass all of the entertainment complex. Ten percent of proceeds from sales at Fourth Street Live! restaurants, and all beer sales from a tent at the south end of the complex, will go to the cause.

Smith said he raised $3,500 the first year, $10,000 in the second and hopes to break $20,000 this year.

“Jason’s story is a great one, and when we heard about it, I said we would jump in in any way we could,” said Hartless.

Smith is especially excited about the band at the top of the bill — national chart-topping Country-Americana band Jericho Woods. The trio of Breckenridge County natives was selected by the readers of Kentucky Living Magazine as the Commonwealth’s Favorite Performing Band last year.

If you’ve been before, you can expect the return of the traditional tapping of the Maibok keg from Gordon Biersch as well.
Ed Hartless

Ed Hartless

“What Jason has been able to do in promoting Pints for Parkinson’s is amazing,” said Hartless. “Instead of having the crowd squeeze into one restaurant, we will be able call attention to a great cause in a much larger space.”

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, but Smith’s passion for the cause isn’t limited to four weeks. He’s organized pint nights in Bowling Green and Evansville, and partners with other local breweries to raise awareness. He’s even formed a 501-C-3 foundation to help distribute the funds raised.

While Gordon Biersch is a national chain with 32 locations, Smith said the success of the Louisville store can be traced to its involvement in local events and causes. Every month, the restaurant hosts a Pint Night when all beer proceeds go to a local non-profit organization. He said the restaurant raised $80,000 for a dozen charities last year,  and members of his team volunteered 200 service hours to community service projects.

“Fourth Street Live has become more family friendly and community oriented, and being a part of the community has really helped our business,” said Smith.

The Pints for Parkinson’s Charity Fundraiser is Wednesday, April 19, starting at 6 p.m.  at Fourth Street Live!

The Surprising Fourth Street Live! Strategy — Going Local

For all its success as a dining and nightspot destination, a significant number of locals still refuse to frequent the bars and restaurants at Fourth Street Live!, dismissing the 13-year-old entertainment district as a place for out-of-towners.

Cordish, the Baltimore company that owns and manages the complex, has adopted a purposeful strategy to change all that and bring locals to its 11 restaurants and seven bars. Part of that strategy has been to recruit local owners and operators, including its big win with the recent announcement that Chef Edward Lee will open Whiskey Dry in the spring.

About a year ago, Cordish hired Ed Hartless as its top local executive, who says he spent much of his first year getting to know Lee and helping convince him to open in the complex.


Ed Hartless at Fourth Street Live!

“I think the second week I was here I met Ed Lee. We started talking about the possibility of him bringing a restaurant to Fourth Street Live! and our direction, which was to try to get somebody local,” Hartless said in a recent EatDrinkTalk podcast interview. “His personality was fantastic and we became friends. It took us a while to find something that would work. We’re glad that at the end of it we came to an agreement.”

Hartless, whose 25-year restaurant career includes opening 22 restaurants in the San Diego airport, acknowledges he’s seen and heard talk about some locals’ aversion to the complex.

“In my short time here, I think a lot of people have that stigma because of the Convention Center,” he said. “There are a lot of out-of-town tourists. A lot of time tourists do want something that’s recognizable and that’s where the chain restaurants do fit.

“We’re also seeing people’s habits changing a little bit in that people who go to cities they’re not accustomed to they do like to search out and find something with local flair. That’s why, with bringing Junior Bridgeman in with Birracibo, and now with Edward Lee, we’re going down that path of bringing in more of the local flair. I think there needs to be a good balance.”

With more than a year left in which the Convention Center will be closed for construction, and with the 2018 opening of the Omni Hotel and other downtown developments, Hartless said he’s discussed with current tenants the importance of appealing to locals, and he’s spearheading an effort to bring more local festivals and events to Fourth Street.

“We definitely are going after locals,” he said. “As downtown starts redeveloping, we’ve got Whiskey Row getting ready, the Omni, NuLu is growing, I can see there could be a resurgence of locals coming back downtown because there’s so much more to offer. In conversations with all of our tenants, we are becoming more strategic when it comes to how we market, going a little more grass roots.”

Hartless believes the business climate for local operators to come downtown is changing, and he’s intent on finding ones that fit in. Certainly there have been plenty of restaurants that have opened and closed there in the past.

“We’re looking. We’re a little bit more choosy,” he said. “We really look for great operators now. You really have to have great operators to keep a restaurant sustainable. And we will leave a space vacant until we find somebody who has a proven track record, like Edward Lee, like Guy Fieri, like Junior Bridgeman, those are the last three we’ve put in.”

To overcome the anticipated decline in convention business, tenants at Fourth Street are turning their focus to locals. Hartless pointed to the upcoming Pints for Parkinson’s charity event as an example. Last year, it was hosted by Gordon Biersch Brewery. This April 19, the event will take over the entire complex, with Gordon Biersch continuing to play host.

On April 1, the complex is partnering with the Louisville Urban League to host a Hospitality Industry Job Fair, with a goal of attracting up to 400 job seekers to fill hospitality openings in downtown restaurants and hotels.

“It’s a way to bring notice that there are jobs to be had in Louisville and we’re opening the doors to let them come in,” said Hartless. “It’s not an online application – it’s going to be face-to-face, I can hire you right now.”




Doug Gossman’s 40-Year Run at Bristol; Ed Hartless Goes Local for Fourth Street Live!

The tastiest podcast in these parts is back with another deep dive into the local dining and drinking scene. We start this week with a few laughs from our afternoon at the Tailspin Ale Fest, where we were pouring plenty of little glasses of great beer. Across the river, we learned the long-awaited Parlour pizzeria will open at the foot of the Big Four Bridge on March 15. Rick talked with Mike Safei last week about the coffee company’s new digs in Shelby Park and some exciting plans being made, including a brewery and bakery. We’re looking forward to a few big events this week — The Ideal Bartender event at Copper & Kings Wednesday, Das Meal in Shelbyville on Thursday, and the 5th Annual Gravy Cup on Saturday.

Steve’s guest is Doug Gossman, who started a business in the Highlands known as the Bristol Bar & Grille four decades ago. The success story was an unlikely one, as Gossman explains that he never expected multiple locations and this kind of longevity. Rick talked with Fourth Street Live! exec Ed Hartless, who is focused on bringing in local restaurants (like the upcoming Whiskey Dry from Edward Lee) and becoming more involved in local events.

In our Favorites segment, Rick chose a Traveler Beer Co. Pineapple Shandy at Tailspin, while Steve picked an as-yet-unnamed concoction involving Green Chartreuse concocted by barkeep Daniel Mahony at The Portage House in Jeffersonville. His favorite bite there was a perfectly prepared whole roasted trout. Rick was amazed at the speed of the service, and the quality of the meal, when he ordered a Buffalo Chicken Salad at Double Dogs in Middletown.

And finally, we want you to make a reservation with our sponsor, Harvest Restaurant, for a special Chef’s Table on Feb. 23. The fantastic meal, led by farmer Judith Schad, features courses accented with Goat Cheese. It’s $85, plus $35 for wine pairings, and you’ll save 10 percent by mentioning EatDrinkTalk when you call 384-9090.


Doug Gossman


at Fourth Street Live!, Ed Hartless