How’s the song go? “Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came … ” Sadly, we’ve seen many Louisville institutions come and go, closings that always have us reflecting on memories we made there and wondering what comes next. However, for many, the announcement of the closing of The Butchertown Social earlier this month elicited a far greater emotional response. Filling the final week of the 2.5-year-old neighborhood bar were tearful embraces amidst champagne toasts and stories of the gaiety that was had, with many folks weepy as they crossed that threshold on Story Avenue one last time. Perhaps the reason was that the staff worked so seamlessly together to create a familial energy when you walked through the door. Maybe it was the many special events there, from video shoots to haunted houses to drag shows and to the iconic Brunch & Beats. Or, was it the feeling of community and safety for all when we joined forces for free music or salsa or art or simply the clank of a glass amongst new friends? I think it’s all these things and more that made Social the “Cheers” of our generation, even for a short time. So, as we bid a final farewell to The Butchertown Social, I know so many want to say thank you for facilitating joy for the masses.
Brianna Hlava, beverage director at Butchertown Social, recalled pitching ideas to owner Isaiah Hoagland for events.
“Every time I ran upstairs or across the street and blurted out a crazy idea, he always said, ‘Yes,’ which is so Isaiah,” Hlava, recalled.
(Hoagland said he couldn’t comment on why Social was closing or on what’s next for the space.)
Initially, Hlava said, she thought she was under-qualified for the job and setting herself up for failure, but 2.5 years later, it seems as though she’s proven even herself wrong, and she is proud of the space they created. “I think it speaks to the crew,” she said. “We’ve basically had the same team since we opened the doors. One thing people say in this industry is the number one thing you can do to fail is to make a place for everybody. We proved that wrong.”
Hlava has made a name for herself in the beverage industry during her time at Social, winning cocktail competitions, creating events and innovative menus, qualifying for coveted nationwide bar programs and conferences and more. Her genuine, welcoming spirit, delicious cocktails and vibrant hair colors have made her a staple behind the Social bar and in our community. Hlava recalled one of her favorite Social memories: “It was the first ‘90s night,” she said. “It completely blew my mind. I spent days folding cootie catchers and finding Zima swag, and the first moment I actually looked up from making drinks, I couldn’t believe it.” Hlava said folks were dancing on the bar in teal and purple tracksuits. “I had to walk outside and shed a tear. I thought, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna be OK.’”
Social regular, Jess Amburgey, said ‘90s night was her favorite memory, as well. “It brought back nostalgia from my childhood, I danced and sang my heart out … We didn’t have an adult care in the world.”
It’s true that Social became a quintessential place to lose yourself in the best way. The energy varied day to day, from electric to calming and relaxing, to celebratory, to so lit even folks’ bras were flying through the air. “How can you possibly summarize a place that feels like home into a memory?” said another regular and friend, Kelly Parry, as we all try to recall our favorite moments.
On the final day of The Butchertown Social, the crew had to close it out in true Social fashion, with a throwback rendition of Brunch & Beats. Brunch & Beats is the daytime dance party that originated at Social but has since had to move to larger venues due to the 1,000-plus attendance each month. This time, District Content held to 300 free tickets to ensure a cap on attendance, and our community showed out (see “bras” above). DJ Hi-Def gave a heartfelt speech about his forever home at Social, reminding everyone to “keep pushing for greatness, no goofies, and you know me — I don’t fuck with Donald Trump!” to which the entire crowd erupted into cheers. Hoagland shook a bottle of champagne on the patio and doused the group as tears streamed down his face and folks embraced one another.
“Calling it homey doesn’t even feel accurate,” said Parry. “It’s the place I’ve celebrated all my milestones the last couple of years. I made friends that grew into family here. We made big life plans here, laughed our asses off, danced, cried, hugged. And, if I really think about it, this place feels like the unconditional love of a mom: warm, doesn’t care about your bad decisions and loves you no matter what.”
You know, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Cheers! •