By BRADEN LAMMERS
When the conversion of the former railroad bridge crossing the Ohio River began, the concept was that residents of Southern Indiana and Louisville could have easy access to the amenities on the other side of the river.
It would be a way to enjoy the outdoors, get some exercise and grab a quick bite to eat.
A number of restaurateurs had the same idea. And when bicyclists and pedestrians are able to finally cross the Big Four pedestrian and bicycle bridge, the options available to them will have substantially expanded.
Right at the foot of the bridge will be Pearl Street Treats, a frozen yogurt shop. Walk to the end of Chestnut Street and you will have your option of a gastropub and a fast-casual restaurant with a host of craft beers on tap. Round the corner onto Riverside Drive, and a Mediterranean restaurant with a riverfront view is available for walkers.
“I think its great they’re coming to downtown Jeffersonville,” said Jay Ellis, executive director of Jeffersonville Main Street, Inc. “It’s going to contribute to the whole area around the Big Four Bridge.”
BIG FOUR BURGERS + BEER
One of those new places will be Big Four Burgers + Beer, which is moving into the former Third Base Tavern building on Spring Street.
The new operators of the restaurant are busy renovating the nearly 8,000-square-foot space, which includes about 1,700 square feet of outdoor space via a deck that climbs the three stories up the side of the building.
Jerry Becht, the property owner, said he bought the building through the Clark County sheriff’s sale because of the location, the river view and because the building had a lot of square footage.
“I buy and sell houses and rent property and stuff, so this is a little out of my realm of expertise,” he said. “[But] I took a chance on the property. I think it had a lot of potential. It needs someone like Matt to take it to the next level.”
Matt McMahan is developing the concept for the business that will become Big Four Burgers + Beer. The restaurant and bar will be his seventh food service venture; he also operates Irish Exit in New Albany.
To pay for the renovations, McMahan is putting an estimated $100,000 into the property, along with a $50,000 forgivable loan from the Redevelopment Commission and a $10,000 Jeffersonville Main Street facade grant.
He explained the concept is to have fast-casual dining on the first floor with a walk-up counter. There will be a large amount of outdoor seating on the patio adjacent to the building.
The second floor will include a bar and game room, with another area for sit-down dining. McMahan said the only space in the entire building that will be 21 and older is the bar, where he plans to have about 30 beers on tap. There is also space upstairs to host live entertainment.
The third floor will have limited access and likely only be open for private parties and special events like Thunder Over Louisville.
But the most impressive feature of the building is the three-story deck and its view.
“I think it will be one of the best locations that I’ve ever had,” McMahan said. “I think it’s the best of both worlds from a restaurant standpoint.”
He said the concept would fill a void in downtown Jeffersonville, allowing people to walk across the Big Four Bridge, grab a burger and be back on their way.
“You can walk over to a park over in Louisville and over here you get all of the shopping and dining,” McMahan said.
He and Becht are counting on that.
“The new bridge, I think is really going to help,” Becht said. “I wouldn’t say it was the most important thing, but it helped play in my decision to buy.”
The business partners hope to be open in October.
OLIVE LEAF BISTRO
Another building that is getting a rehab and hoping to capitalize on the view of the Ohio River and downtown Louisville is the Olive Leaf Bistro.
The soon-to-be Mediterranean restaurant that will locate in the 2,800-square-foot former Brad Sprigler Designs Building, at 130 Riverside Drive, is undergoing renovations.
“We just got the release approved from the state to do the work a few days ago,” said Jimmy Shraby, owner of Olive Leaf Bistro.
Shraby, from New Jersey, said he has been looking for a location in Southern Indiana for a while. He said he has cousins that live in the area and they were helping him look for spots in New Albany. But when the Jeffersonville riverfront spot was a discovered, the restaurant had its place.
“I think it’s one of the best locations in Southern Indiana,” he said.
Along with the large windows that surround the building, Shraby said the plan is to have a substantial amount of outdoor seating, with between 30 to 40 seats.
He said the restaurant would look to capitalize on the river view and the short distance to Louisville.
“The Big Four Bridge is a big plus,” Shraby said.
Shraby said he also hopes to open in October or late fall.
A business that has already hosted a ribbon-cutting at Chestnut and Spring streets has been delayed in its plans to open in downtown Jeffersonville.
“We’re just playing the waiting game right now,” said Paul Ronau, owner of Red Yeti Brewing Co.
He said the brewpub is waiting on the state to approve its plans for renovations. Once that occurs, he said they would be able to pull the permits to get the major renovations underway inside the building.
The plan for the historic building is to convert the 3,000-square-foot space into a bar and brewery on one side and a dining room and kitchen on the other.
But the beer may have to wait.
Ronau said he has to wait until the construction plans are approved to apply for a liquor license, which could take about four months, and it could take anywhere from six months to a year to get federal approvals for an on-site brewery.
“We’re ready to start moving,” he said. “The brewery will be last once everything is in.”
But again, the target date for the restaurant should coincide with eh opening of the Indiana ramp to the Big Four Bridge — which is set for November.
“By the time the bridge opens up we should be at least serving food, hopefully, with some luck [beer],” Ronau said.
ADRIENNE & CO. BAKERY AND CAFE
Not all of the restaurants in the area will be new. Adrienne & Co. Bakery and Cafe on Court Avenue in Jeffersonville is looking to capitalize on those who will cross the bridge by adding outdoor seating and revamping the front of the restaurant.
“It’s something that we’ve needed to do for a long time,” said Bernie Pasquantino, owner of Adrienne & Co. “It made sense to have an outside area since all those people are walking [over]. The park is across the street. It’s a nice place for people to hang out.”
The impetus for finally revamping the front of the restaurant was something less exciting — a broken air conditioner.
Pasquantino said knowing the business had to replace the air conditioning the plan was to also replace the glass windows and winterize in the front of the building.
If they were doing all of the work, the decision became to revamp the façade of the bakery.
In front of what will become a revamped façade will be more outdoor tables, a request approved by Jeffersonville’s Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday. Pasquantino said three tables would be added outside in front of the restaurant, creating a total of nine outdoor tables. But another important addition will create a space where the café’s customers feel more comfortable.
“People do sit out in front of the building, but there is no protection from the street,” Pasquantino said. “You’re just kind of sitting on the sidewalk. Having a rail there will make it feel [safer] and encourage people to use it.”
Pasquantino said the hope is to have the outdoor space completed before Adrienne’s hosts its annual Italian Festival in late-September.
Adrienne’s will be the second local restaurant to add outdoor seating in downtown Jeffersonville. A pilot program allowed Perkfection Café to be the first to add outdoor seating earlier this week.
“A couple of weeks ago we were talking about another old restaurant on Spring Street that was wanting to do the same, and somebody asked the question, ‘what if all the other restaurants want to do it?’” asked Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore. “The answer was that would be great. It’s exactly what we want.”