A legendary, Black-owned club in West Louisville has reopened.
The space that was once Joe’s Palm Room (1821 W. Jefferson St.) closed down years ago after its namesake owner Joe Hammond, an influential Black businessman in Louisville, passed away. When it reopened in September 2020, it did so as The Palm Room –– the owner, Marcus Withers, didn’t have the rights to attach Joe Hammond’s name to it.
But after a soft opening on New Year’s Eve 2021, the club has once again reopened –– under its original name. In its heyday, Joe’s Palm Room, which opened in 1954, was known for attracting big names and power brokers as well as locals from both the East and West Ends. A description of the club on the website of The Joe Hammond Project, which commemorates Hammond’s legacy, says it was “THE place to be for entrepreneurs, actors, musicians, politicians and anyone who wanted to be part of this dynamic community. On any given evening, one could run into Artis Gilmore, Redd Foxx, Joe Louis, Dizzy Gillespie, Richard Pryor, Muhammad Ali and other colorful characters, which also including [sic] the locals.”
Now, the owners are hoping that the club will retain that reputation.
Donnie Adkins owns Club Cedar and is one of the four co-owners of Joe’s Palm Room. He told LEO that the runup to the reopening was “a Herculean effort to get everything together” –– and, moreover, “trying to live up to what we think the hype should be.”
Adkins said that his vision for Joe’s Palm Room differed from the last owner’s; he declined to specify what the last owner had in mind, but he said he envisioned that Joe’s Palm Room would be “more of a 35-and-up kind of club: more sophisticated, more urban professional, more chic.” To that end, the renovated club has a “warm vibe”; it’s decorated with artwork of famous people, including famous Louisvillians; and the seating is more open than it was before, amongst other changes.
“If you were a patron of The Palm Room circa 2019, 2018, and in the past, if you walked in here now, you would not even recognize this place,” said Adkins.
Another key component of the club’s history is its legacy as a Black-owned business. Hammond was a celebrated Black entrepreneur – “one of the first, and probably one of the only” in Louisville, Adkins said, “to ride around in a Rolls-Royce.” Adkins is Black, as is the previous owner Marcus Withers, as is co-owner Butch Mosby, the founder of Sponsor 4 Success, a platform similar to GoFundMe. Mosby, who founded The Joe Hammond Project, owns a property downtown that will be turned into a hotel –– and that hotel will also draw inspiration from Joe’s Palm Room and Hammond’s life.
Adkins said the club owners’ mission now is not only to bring in customers, but also to make the community aware that the club is back and operating as Joe Hammond would have wanted.
“Even in a pandemic,” he said, “there’s a group of Black men who came together who saw a vision, and who said, ‘We’re going to try to figure out how to get this done.’ Even when sometimes the banks will say no, we try to figure out a way to always get a yes.”
Joe’s Palm Room is open Thursday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to closing time, which is usually between 1-2 a.m. It’s not open as a club Monday through Wednesday: the owners are trying to promote the space as an affordable venue for community groups to host events on those days.
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