City Strobe: Happy new year, OLCH, you’re going to court

Rocking out has been difficult of late at Old Louisville Coffeehouse.
After 130 shows, the best thing that’s happened to the neighborhood since the Tavern’s burger is headed to Jefferson District Court on Jan. 3 because a neighbor is fed up.
John Glenn lives behind the venue/coffee shop/hangout in an apartment building on Hill Street; he’s filed a noise complaint against the coffeehouse over its loud, all-ages shows.

Peter Berkowitz, who runs the shop, says he’ll plead not guilty and fight the charge once he finds an attorney to represent the business. Until the issue is resolved, he’s effectively put the kibosh on loud bands in favor of acts that generally don’t turn up to 11.

Speaking of 11, that’s long after shows at the coffeehouse end, Berkowitz said in a phone interview Friday. And, he said, “These shows bring in money for us.”

Moreover, he added, five tenants who live above the coffeehouse have never complained, and the place itself is an economic and social positive for Old Louisville, not a negative.

Berkowitz pointed out that the building at Fourth and Hill streets was vacant for 18 months before he opened the place. Before that, it was a liquor store and check-cashing joint.

Shut it down, and the neighborhood loses a cultural asset. “His property will decrease in value if there’s a vacant storefront (here),” Berkowitz said. —Mat Herron

Another day, another dangerous odor
If you live in the West Louisville neighborhood of Rubbertown, chances are you awoke last Friday to a vile stench. While that could be said of most days among the forest of chemicals and the plants that emit them in Rubbertown, the two-day stink that came from the Rohm and Haas plant last week was caused by a chemical called ethyl acrylate, which the company uses for cleaning.

The company is allowed to use the chemical, the Metropolitan Sewer District later said, but may have allowed too much to seep into the water supply. A Metro Health Department official said last week there was no public danger.

Eboni Cochran, president of Rubbertown Emergency ACTion (REACT), said the stench of the spill woke her up in the middle of the night, and ultimately made her queasy, with burning eyes, sore throat and a headache. She said the pervasive stink also got into her car.
The chemical is a recognized carcinogen.

MSD is investigating the spill; Cochran said REACT would be following the investigation closely. —Stephen George

Louisvillians traveling to Cuba
The Henry Wallace Brigade, a group of Louisvillians named for the late journalist and prominent activist who spent his lifetime growing a seed of social justice planted in him during his first trip to an impoverished, pre-revolution Cuba in the 1940s, will head to Cuba the day after Christmas to visit the country Wallace cherished while raising awareness of oppressive U.S. policies toward the socialist country.

The group of 27 also aims to draw attention to the U.S. travel restriction on Cuba, which disallows most Americans from visiting. A number of high-profile Americans have broken that law recently, including filmmaker Oliver Stone, who was fined for his brazenness.

“I think it’s important that people take a stand and say this is an absolutely wrong policy,” said Sonja de Vries, one of Wallace’s six children. “The U.S. embargo on Cuba has gone on for 45 years. The only thing it’s done is hurt the economy there and the Cuban people.”

The Brigade, which has raised $20,000 in scholarship money since Wallace’s death in April, is having a send-off soiree on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Central Presbyterian Church, at Fourth and Kentucky streets. It’s free and open to all. —Stephen George

Biofuel River don’t run dry
With the world’s oil reserves running out and the world’s people hating our consumptive guts, Americans are scrambling to find an alternative to that sweet, delicious, intoxicating fuel that powers the vehicles that hold the bumpers that display our flag decals. There are enough promising futuristic alternatives to gasoline (hydrogen fuel cells, nuclear Segways) being bandied about to make a “Battlestar Gallactica” fan weep onto her Wired magazine.

But there are some exciting fuel alternatives gaining traction here today.
One of those is biodiesel, an aromatic concoction of renewable, non-toxic vegetable oils that can be burned in conventional diesel engines. Biodiesel is biodegradable, has fewer emissions than regular diesel when burned, and comes primarily from soybeans, which is Kentucky’s fourth-largest cash crop after marijuana, corn squeezins and tobacco.

Appropriately enough, small-farm champion and hookah enthusiast Willie Nelson has his own blend of biodiesel, called BioWillie. And Kentucky is offering BioWillie manufacturer Earth Biofuels $1.12 million in tax incentives to build a refinery in Fulton County. The plant would produce 30 million gallons of BioWillie per year, employ 50 workers and provide markets for local farmers and comedians for years to come.

Besides the environmental, economic, political and comedy advantages, BioWillie also exudes the pleasant smell of doughnuts, according to, which should appeal to a broad cross-section of Americans. (In a cute Crabtree-&-Evelyn-esque tangent, the site goes on to explain that biodiesel is easier on mechanics’ hands, protecting them from “cracking and redness.” Aw.)

There may be drawbacks to biodiesel, although it’s hard to trust the veracity of any report that criticizes a product that competes with the oil industry. Possible negatives: The fuel can gel in cold weather, be slightly higher in particulate emissions and not run well in all current diesel engines. And there’s this niggling little problem: Rising soybean demand contributes to deforestation, particularly in South America, where soy plantations are replacing old-growth forests at an alarming rate.

Currently, BioWillie is available mainly to big-rig drivers and those humongo Ford, Dodge and Chevy pickup trucks that seem to be popular at soccer matches (sumbitches’ll git up ’n’ haul!). And while diesel cars are all the rage in Europe, only Volkswagen and Mercedes offer models widely available in the United States. Still, with the Middle East bushwhacked, the world’s oil reserves dwindling and American energy policy decision-makers as indecisive as a stoner at Krispy Kreme, give Willie — and the Commonwealth of Kentucky — some props for trying to make a difference. —Jim Welp

For regular City Strobe updates, visit The Lip: LEO’s News Blog at Send news tips to, and contact the writers at, [email protected]