When HopCat announced plans nearly a year go to open a craft beer bar and restaurant on Bardstown Road, the anxiety sprang up immediately, with social media and the Original Highlands Neighborhood Association wondering aloud where customers would park.
HopCat’s maximum occupancy is 600, including space for private events. Chris Knape, vice president of marketing and communications for BarFly Ventures, HopCat’s parent company, estimates the bar might see 300 people on a busy Friday or Saturday, a “sweet spot.”
In an attempt to allay concerns of local residents and businesses, HopCat has told Metro Louisville officials it would provide a $5 valet service and work with driving services, Uber and Lyft, to provide incentives for customers to use them. HopCat has 24 parking spots on site, and it will rent another 40 or so spots on weekends from nearby St. Brigid Catholic Church for the valet service.
“One of the things we’ve been trying to encourage with the city and with the neighborhood with the perception of the parking problem, is that [a shortage of] parking is nothing new. It didn’t arrive with HopCat,” Knape said.
No other bar on the street has more parking than does HopCat, with its 24 spots, Knape said, adding, “Clearly, it’s not going to be enough for a busy night. We know many of our guests are going to park on the street, or walk, or take a cab, or choose valet.”
District 8 Metro Councilman Tom Owen is concerned, although he said HopCat has worked to meet city codes, and local residents’ anxiety has eased somewhat in recent months.
However, Owen was clear that the Council offered nearly every credit available to help the restaurant, in exchange for HopCat’s willingness to provide parking alternatives, as well as its reuse of the existing building. For instance, HopCat reduced its required parking by 50 percent under the code — including 10 percent for being near a transit route, 20 percent for rehabilitating the historic structure and 20 percent for meeting certain design criteria, according to a Courier-Journal story in April.
But will HopCat’s efforts be enough?
“No,” Owen said. “If they do maximum business, which is their hope, there will be pressure on adjoining neighborhood streets, no question about it.”
Tommy Clemons co-owns the Highlands Tap Room, which also features craft beer and is next door to HopCat. He believes overflow customers from HopCat will be good for his business, but also wonders what pressures the influx of people and traffic will bring.
“It will probably make us busier,” Clemons said. “But is it already congested down here? Sure. Will it get more crowded? Well, probably. So, of course parking is going to be a huge issue.
“Personally,” Clemons added, “I’m ready for this thing to be open, and whatever happens, happens, we’ll deal with it.”