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August 17, 2013

A SEAT AT THE TABLE: Restaurants ready to capitalize on Big Four Bridge’s impending opening

JEFFERSONVILLE — 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.

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Sierra Proctor, 13, New Albany, looks through a clothing rack at the Clarksville Salvation Army Thrift Store along Little League Boulevard on Wednesday morning. Students enrolled in any level of schooling in Floyd, Clark, Washington, and Scott counties were eligible for the back-to-school clothing giveaway.

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