When general manager Brad Walker described some of the first events held at the Brown Hotel’s rooftop garden, in the 1920s, he said you could get lunch there for 85 cents.
The price for lunch today will run you about 50 times that, but Walker is confident the reopening of the Brown’s 16th floor rooftop, closed since 1971, will be a big attraction for party and wedding planners. In fact, he said that 40 events are already booked for the 3,800-square foot space.
The Brown invested $950,000 in the last six months reinforcing the floor, installing concrete pavers, a louvered roof and landscaping. On Wednesday morning, the Brown hosted a media reception to unveil the new look and the view from the 16th floor, a vista very few locals have enjoyed.
The view itself is something short of spectacular, but it is a unique look facing north into downtown. Walker admitted that because the Clark Memorial Bridge is obstructed by buildings a few blocks away, the rooftop won’t be an ideal place to watch Thunder over Louisville. Regardless, his sales team is busy booking events for Derby season.
An early-evening reception, featuring cheese, vegetables and appetizers from the hotel’s executive chef Josh Bettis, offered guests a feel for an actual event, with a keyboard player providing background music and servers offering up delectables from the kitchen.
However, Walker said that with few exceptions, the space will be used for private events only, adding to the Brown’s 17 meeting spaces. That leaves the roof space at the Hilton Garden Inn’s 8Up, visible from the Brown’s roof, as downtown’s best bet for open air, elevated dining and drinking space open to the public.
It’s worth sharing a story Walker told about the Brown’s rich history. As legend has it, wealthy businessman J. Graham Brown spent a 1922 evening playing poker into the wee hours. In the morning after, looking like someone who’d been sleeping in the street, Brown tried to get breakfast at the Seelbach, but was refused entry.
Which was all the motivation Brown needed to spend the next 10 months building his own hotel down the street for $4 million. The two properties have competed ever since, and visitors have enjoyed their stays as pampered beneficiaries of that rivalry.