Phoenix Hill Tavern, Jim Porter's close abruptly - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Phoenix Hill Tavern, Jim Porter's close abruptly

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A sign on the Phoenix Hill Tavern entrance says the nightclub is "closed permanently." A sign on the Phoenix Hill Tavern entrance says the nightclub is "closed permanently."
In a heartfelt goodbye posted online, the Phoenix Hill Tavern's owner says the club has operated continuously since 1976. In a heartfelt goodbye posted online, the Phoenix Hill Tavern's owner says the club has operated continuously since 1976.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Concerts canceled, workers fired and an abrupt closure with no warning: the gig is up for two of Louisville's most legendary music hot spots.

 Monday morning the owner of the Phoenix Hill Tavern and Jim Porter's Good Time Emporium announced on a company website that both nightclubs would close immediately.

"I'm totally taken aback," said musician Ryan Howe who had a concert booked at Phoenix Hill July 19th with the rock group the Velcro Pigmies. "I'm shocked. I had no idea. No idea.""The first thing I thought of was, 'Wow, they already got the goodbye notice on the marquee,'" said T.J and the Cheaters drummer Dean Hill.

Musicians, customers and workers alike had to see the empty buildings themselves to believe Louisville's legendary music venue were no more and those who came in person were greeted by a sign with a statement on the doors.

"It's strange, kind of cryptic and elusive," Howe said.

Owner Ben Rogers wrote in the message, "Please accept my VERY sincere apologies for the abrupt manner in which the clubs closed." Rogers said, "pulled the plug," to settle his debt and kept it quiet per a confidentiality agreement with Phoenix Hill's new developer, citing safety concerns.

In April, WDRB News reported Rogers had sold Jim Porter's land near I-64 and Grinstead Drive to the city for an MSD project for $5 million, but a closing date was never set.

The employees never saw it coming. Security guard Gary Jones worked at both clubs. He said, " We were never told nothing."

Rogers said workers like Jones workers will receive their last paycheck on Friday. They will include a bonus based their positions and lengths of service.

Both venues had gigs booked for weeks. Hill said, "The band T.J. and The Cheaters was scheduled to perform on June 26 and 27."

The nightclubs rocked Louisville for a combined 65 years. Howe takes the stage with Velcro Pygmies about once every two months at Phoenix Hill.

He said, "Professionally, it's one less venue to play, so it's not going to be a positive effect."

But some of Phoenix Hill's Highland neighbors near the intersection Baxter and Broadway are not as sad to see it go.

"I mean, on Wednesday night, you don't leave your car unlocked," said neighbor Chris Pease. "You make sure it's locked and you pull the window tight and hopefully by the morning time, you wake up and still have a yard." 

Youtube videos chronicle raucous nights inside the club. Some of the links feature fights growing into brawls.

The parties were legendary -- but the story ends on a sour note.

Hill said, "This was such a great place to play."

"It's like a playground for adults," said Howe.

"At one time it had it's glory, but now, it's washed up," Pease said.

Last call. Lights out. Show's over.

The press release announcing the closures is from Ben Rogers, the retired owner of the two clubs. The text of the release is below:

“Thank you Louisville. It was a great gig!”

The Phoenix Hill Tavern and Jim Porter's Good Time Emporium closed permanently today.

Please accept my VERY sincere apologies for the abrupt manner in which the clubs closed; and to anyone the closings will effect in a negative manner. (Especially staff members and entertainers.) Because of some agreed to contractual terms, and concerns about safety and liability issues after a closing warning announcement - while trying to control a cash only business - well…“pulling the plug” was just the safest way to do this. PHT is under contract with a first class real estate developer who I've personally researched and selected. The developer is proposing to work closely with The City to deliver a best of class development that will be very positive for the community. Based upon confidentiality agreements, the developer cannot be disclosed at this time, but they plan to introduce themselves and their plans in the near future.

Jim Porters has been bought out by MSD to make way for the MSD “Project WIN.” I want to emphasize that the earlier than expected closing for Porters was my own personal decision and not at MSD's insistence. I am sure MSD will move forward and do great things for the health and environment of our community. The contents of Jim Porters will be sold very soon in a series of online auctions at wardlowauc.com.

So… this is my heartfelt goodbye… It has been my great honor and privilege to serve literally generations of Louisvillian's for the past approximately 40 years. I started Phoenix Hill Tavern in 1976, when I was 21 years old, in one tiny room - on the 2nd floor - of a run down warehouse, that my beloved parents Sonny and Mary Ruth Rogers owned on Baxter Ave. “PHT” / “The Hill” eventually expanded into the entire warehouse and became a sprawling 25K sq. ft. “Live Music Showcase.” It operated continuously for 40 years.

I took over the lease at Jim Porters / “Porters” after the building on Lexington Road, also owned by my parents, sat vacant for 2 or 3 years. I completely remodeled and upgraded it, re-opening it as an 18K sq. ft. “Good Time Emporium” in 1990. It operated continuously for 25 years.

In my very biased opinion, I believe these were the 2 most successful nightclubs in the history of our city. It wasn't because of me; it was because of the people who worked for me. The clubs were certainly two of the most enduring. I do know that they were deeply enjoyed and loved by many - especially me. I always thought of the clubs and staff members as family members. For me personally, this will be bittersweet. I have truly loved being in the bar business. I am so grateful for so many things; the people I've met, the tremendous staff members I've worked with, the experiences I've enjoyed, the life and business lessons I've learned, the bands I've booked and the friends I've made; but most of all I am SO grateful and humbled by the loyalty and support of our community over the years. I wish I could stay forever, however after 40 years in the bar business and having just turned 60 years old - with some increasing health related issues - this was just something whose time had finally come. A natural evolution of things, if you will… “It's finally just time for me to hang up my spurs and turn the page.” I have no plans to continue on in the bar / restaurant business in any capacity.

Finally, I thank God for allowing me to end this incredible 40 year journey on my own terms.

We intend to settle with our creditors and this will be a successful discontinuance. This will be my only statement. Please, no media interview requests.

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