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December 4, 2013

Burgers + Beer + open in Jeffersonville

First of the restaurants centered around Big Four Bridge opens today

JEFFERSONVILLE — The finishing touches are wrapping up, and at 11 a.m. today the Big Four is set to open.

No, it’s not the pedestrian and bicycle bridge nearby that lends its name to the space, but a restaurant called Big Four Burgers + Beer. Like the aforementioned Big Four Bridge, Big Four Burgers + Beer was behind schedule on its hopeful opening date, but only by two months, not a year behind schedule like the Ohio River span.

And after months of hard work, Matt McMahan, who developed the concept, said he is excited to open the restaurant in historic downtown Jeffersonville because there is nothing else like it in the area.

“Nobody is really doing gourmet burgers on this side of the bridge, at least,” he said. “Downstairs it’s fast casual. You order and pay at the counter, upstairs we’ll have full-service so it’s like two concepts in one.”

Downstairs will be geared toward a lunch crowd, hold 50 people and will offer items at a lower price than upstairs. According to the menu, burgers downstairs will range from $6.99 to $8.99 and items will be served a la carte.

Upstairs will feature more gourmet burgers, larger portions — a half pound burger will be served versus the one-third pound burger served downstairs— and include french fries in a platter. The entree prices range from $9.99 to $14.99 on the second floor.

There will be 80 seats upstairs as well as pool tables and a bar area featuring 21 taps. The small bar area is 21 and over only. The remainder of the restaurant is family friendly.

“It’s a smaller portion, but our quality is the same,” McMahan said of the burgers.

Additional seating will be available outdoors in the spring with another 40 seats on patios on both the first and second floors of the building. A third level of the 8,000-square-foot space, which was formerly Third Base Tavern, will be reserved for private parties.

To transform the former tavern into a restaurant space with exposed brick, dark hardwood floors and mason jar light fixtures, McMahan said it cost upwards of $100,000. The city of Jeffersonville helped to defer some of those costs as the restaurant received a $50,000 forgivable loan from the Redevelopment Commission and a $10,000 Jeffersonville Main Street facade grant.

While the restaurant is opening before the Big Four Bridge — the bridge being part of the reason the property owner, Jerry Becht, said he bought the location — McMahan said it is not expected to hamper business.

“We didn’t personally miss too much,” McMahan said of the pedestrian bridge not being open yet. “I think we’ll do without it, but obviously it’s going to be awesome to have.”

And when the bridge does finally open, it may change the restaurant’s plans.

“Right now, we’re going to be closed on Sundays,” McMahan said. “If that bridge were open, it would change my whole concept on what we would do.”

McMahan said more staff may be added in the future, but to date, the restaurant has hired about a dozen people.

In creating the Big Four Burgers + Beer concept, McMahan, who also operates Irish Exit in New Albany, said he tried to incorporate elements from the history of the former railroad bridge.

A railroad tie was used as a divider on the first floor, old wooden pallets were transformed into the floor upstairs and reclaimed barn wood was used for the tables. The emblem for the restaurant is a gear with a vintage look that McMahan said he wanted to lend to the space.

The menu itself also features elements that are tied to the former railroad bridge that ran through Jeffersonville. McMahan said he plans to have a Big Four beer flight featuring a beer brewed in each of the Big Four cities — Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis.

“I based the whole thing off the bridge, the logo and the concept and the gourmet burgers,” McMahan said. “It turned out so well I think I’m going to try and do another location.”


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