La Grange, Ky., couple open
Main Street Bourbon & Ale House
The Clemons have experience in bar,
liquor store ventures
LA GRANGE, Ky. (May 2015) – Tom Clemons is no stranger to the alcohol industry. For more than 30 years the northern Wisconsin native has made a career out of serving the public during Happy Hour and beyond.
Clemons opened his first bar, Down to Earth Pub, on Louisville’s Bardstown Road in 1974 when he was 23 years old. Along with wife, Linda, he opened The Back Door in the Mid City Mall 30 years ago in the Highlands area of Louisville. The space had been a warehousing and storage facility for the nearby A&P Grocery before becoming a bar.
Photo by Helen McKinney
Tom and Linda Clemons have opened Main Street Bourbon & Ale House in La Grange, Ky.
The couple sold the 5,000-square-foot bar and lounge in 1987 to John Dant. Next, Clemons tried his hand at Old Towne Liquors.
His latest venture is the Main Street Bourbon & Ale House in La Grange, Ky. The business offers “an extensive selection of liquors,” said Clemons. “The bar would rival any in Louisville as far as the depth of selection.”
The selection includes 50 or more bourbons, 10 beers on tap and a large variety of craft beers. In addition, there is “pub grub. Our food has been so well received,” he said.
General Manager Farrah Felts runs the kitchen and said they didn’t want to serve “just the same old items.” A line of specialty artisan and flatbread pizzas includes a mouth-watering hot brown pizza. An item that is quickly becoming a popular appetizer is mini pretzels served with beer cheese.
“The pretzels come from Q&A Sweet Treats,” said Felts of her choice of using a local business to provide products. One of Clemons’ favorites will be included in the menu, Nathan’s hot dogs.
The Clemons have owned the building, which sits in the historic district of La Grange at 209 E. Main St., for 15 years. They first ran Hotdog Heaven from the circa 1850 home. When they purchased it, the home contained three apartments. The Clemons bought it as an investment property.
After Hotdog Heaven closed, various businesses occupied the space, including Big R’s BBQ. The building has the reputation of being haunted and is on the Spirits of La Grange Ghost Tour.
“It is one of the most haunted buildings on the Ghost Tour,” said Clemons. The tours are arranged through Discover Downtown La Grange, an organization the couple has become heavily involved in over the last few years.
Clemons also sits on the Historic District Commission. Historic preservation is a topic that is “near and dear to my heart,” he said.
The ale house is unique in that it has a qualified historic site license, something of which Clemons is quite proud, since there are only four such licenses in the state. He said the couple went through “great pains to decorate the interior, to make it look like it had always been there.”
The ale house “has a nice vibe and a relaxing atmosphere,” said Felts. “There was a need for a local pub – a place where neighborhood people could come to.”
Clemons agreed there was a need for his business, now that La Grange is “wet.”
“It was time for it. The response has been incredible.”
La Grange residents in July 2012 voted to expand alcohol sales within the city limits by allowing its sale in restaurants that seat 50 or more and derive 50 percent or more sales from food. The vote also allowed a limited number of licenses for packaged liquor stores and allowed grocery and convenience stores to sell beer if they have at least $5,000 in other inventory. Previously, the “moist” law required restaurants serving alcohol to seat 100 people and derive 70 percent or more in sales from food.
Clemons’ future plans include more outdoor seating for a total of 68 seats and a roof to cover most of the deck. Inside the restaurant can seat 65 persons and contains a horseshoe bar as its centerpiece.
Additional outdoor seating will accommodate smokers. It will also be family friendly, since parents “can bring their kids and sit outside and watch the trains go by,” said Linda Clemons, an Oldham County native.
So far, Main Street Bourbon & Ale House has had “a nice mixture of people, from city people to a young crowd,” said Felts. “Customers can stay close to home and get the same feel as a Highlands bar.”
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