CityBlock Owners Give Up

The rumors that started two weeks ago became reality over the weekend, and no one knows what’s going to happen to the important downtown block that has housed the CityBlock entertainment complex. A hundred employees lost their jobs.

Club owners Ward Plauche and Don Blackburn announced over the weekend that they weren’t re-opening the club that closed last Wednesday. Plauche has been critical of city government in recent months, and especially its support of nightclubs at Fourth Street Live. Cordish’s new Sports and Social Club, supported by nearly a million dollars in the form of a forgivable loan from the city, opened last week.

It proved to be enough for Plauche, who shut down right before the biggest party week of the year.

When I spoke to him April 17, Plauche was distressed about the complex’s future and suggested that he was considering trying to turn the place into an under-age club. But I could tell that Plauche, after two decades in the bar business, didn’t have the enthusiasm for that plan.

Ironically, last Wednesday the city’s economic development director, Bruce Traughber, offered the business a $200,000 loan. But Plauche said it was too little, too late.

So CityBlock goes down as another local enterprise driven out of business by competition from out-of-town developers supported by city government. Plauche and Blackburn are true entrepreneurs, and during their days in the bar business came up with some amazing publicity stunts while bringing in top national acts as headliners. Let’s hope we hear from them again.

19 thoughts on “CityBlock Owners Give Up

  1. This ongoing saga of the city subsidizing out-of-town businesses — to the detriment of locals — is a pox on the House of Abramson.

    It’s shameful and embarrassing. It’s eroding support for the mayor unlike any other issue I’ve seen. Furthermore, it makes his aides and allies look like greedy hypocrites.

    I stopped patronizing chains long ago because I want to support my neighbors — local owners/operators who actually live here and bust their butts every day because they love this town and want to build on our quality of life.

    They’ve been slapped in the face long enough.

    It’s high time for someone to organize a boycott of Everything Cordish. I urge everyone to spend their pesos to benefit local owners. Our neighbors need our support to counterbalance the Mayor’s public-policy favoritism of their non-local competitors.

    And kudos to Ward Plauche, for sticking his neck out and speaking the truth to power.

    Together, maybe we can teach the Mayor a civics lesson that obviously and unfortunately has eluded him.

  2. But at least we have a super cool “new” sports bar thing at 4th street live, right?
    (Couldn’t they have at least spent some of that 895k on switching out the bowling pin sign? How stupid.)

  3. I find it disheartening when local governments (and to be fair, local consumers) don’t make a point of supporting local businesses. America is a country that, in theory, exalts individualism. Yet so many communities are starting to look depressingly similar. (Applebee’s, check. Wal-Mart, check. Starbucks, check.)

  4. I’m not a Cordish fan, and would rather spend my time in any one of the Irish pubs on Baxter, but this has to be said…

    City Block’s owners gave up long ago, when they started letting their facilities fall apart and failed to keep the atmosphere of their club fun & exciting. Who wants to buy $7 drinks in a dump? Watch out, Phoenix Hill (ridiculously branded as PHT) is next.


  5. C’mon folks we all know why Mayor Jerry gave the money to Cordish! Paris Hilton is going to host an after party party for the Barnstable Brown party at the new social club in 4th Street Live! He had to make himself look good for the left coast celebrities that are coming into town! After all they all support democratic causes so he may get some of their money for his next campaign, wherever it is.

  6. The citizens of Louisville deserve everything we get by continuing to elect that curupt jackass. You’ve got to be a fool to vote for him now !!!

  7. Sad to see them go. I have a lot of memories of CityBlock/O Malleys. They brought some great concerts to town (Willie Nelson comes to mind) over the years, and they somehow brought people downtown from the suburbs for close to 2 decades. 4th Street live can’t seem to lure folks down there in the same way.

    My guess is that without Ward & Don’s constant efforts to pull people downtown, it will create a vaccuum in the area. At least I hope…I hate 4th street live with their jacked up prices and pre-fabricated template environments.

  8. Dump? I guess so. How many times have they asked for the help that Cornish was just handed? And I mean…just handed. Hand me a million dollars and see if I don’t sparkle.

  9. Isn’t this interesting. When Coyote’s and the other bars opened back in the 90’s, Ward held a no-holds barred assault on the local club scene. He undercut drink prices versus other local clubs. He announced he had the biggest dance floors. He had Coyote Calhoun involved on a grand scale. He had huge headliner concerts and held them more often. He threw advertising money around like water and cornered the nightclub craze in Louisville.

    I was once a professional musician playing in a high profile group in this town and earning a very nice living doing so BEFORE Coyote’s. Now, I look around……there’s about 1/4 of live music this town once had and many of the city’s best musicians hardly even play out anymore -including me. Why? Because Ward Plauche didn’t support the live local music scene. And now as a result, we no longer have a burgeoning music scene like we once had. Gone are places like Flaherty’s, Village Pub, Sahara Niteclub, the Toy Tiger, Colonial Gardens…..and many more….all staunch supporters of local musicians and live music – many of which featured live music 4 nights a week or more!!!

    So, while I understand everyone’s gripe over the Cordish thing, all they did was figure a way to beat Ward at a game that he once played very well and now, he’s the one retreating exactly the same way he forced other clubs to retreat.

    I’m sorry, Ward, but you get no sympathy from me. All you did was make an easy target for someone with more saviness and obviously more money than you to knock you off the mountain. Perhaps you should have thought of that 20 years ago when you were underpaying all of us and treating us as second-class citizens. Had you handled that differently, maybe some of us musicians would have survived with our fan following in tact and perhaps come to your aid in a time of need. You get what you give, I suppose.

  10. Local Musician? What a self serving comment to make that owner ward look like a bad guy!……No! NO! NO!…..just not so, I played Coyotes a number of times and was always treated like a friend and welcomed warmly by the owners and their staff, every time…..I played they early on with Shania Twain, and along the time frame of many to grace the stage that have become huge Stars. It’s guys like Ward that have worked their Ass off to produce such an agressive attempt with no help from anyone, and funded by their own hard work,knowledge, and skills.
    What they demonstrated was the passion,hustle, and desire to win & grow!…..They are smart enough to see that they can’t outspend the City…….Enough said,,,,If any of you young turks think you have even 20% of the smarts ,juice,ability that those guys displayed for over 35 years in all. I’d think you should jump into action and contact ward or don,

  11. TK’s right. I was a professional local musician back in the 80s & 90s, and I disagree with Loco Musician. In fact, Ward not only hired my band for over a year to play in Backstage Blues cafe on their slow night, he let us put on a benefit for charity in the main hall and didn’t charge us anything.

    There’s nothing sinister in the way Ward’s done business…and what’s happening now is completely different. You’re seeing local government spend YOUR TAX MONEY to drive local business owners under. That’s a problem…

  12. First off, Toby, if you really want me to think you’re THE Toby Keith (as if you’d take time to even put this site in your favorites list – let alone actively participate in it), then I’ve got a Downtown Arena I’d like to sell ya!

    If you are the “real” Toby, then big boy, last I heard, your home address was Nashville and Oklahoma – so that wouldn’t make you a local LOUISVILLE musician now would it? You’re a national star and of course Ward is going to treat you like royalty. But more importantly, I may not be the brightest bulb in the Par Can, but I ain’t dumb enough to believe your bullshit post anyway.

    And Greg, you’re missing the point. Admittedly, I can’t speak for the Blues bands too much. But I know there were country bands in Louisville such as Ron Peake and Open Country, Mike Lunsford, JD Black, Uncle Pecos, Wild Horses, Karen Kraft, and scores of others that ALL made a comfortable living playing the local clubs I mentioned in my original post. All of those places I mentioned, plus even places like LaBo’s in Lebanon Junction, ALL started losing business to Coyote’s because of exactly what I mentioned previously.

    My point is that instead of Ward hiring these bands to play HIS club, he chose the DJ Format and promoted the hell out of their larger-than-life dance floor. The LOCAL musicians were only offered opportunities to open concerts and even then, you barely made $50 each, which was nothing close to what we all made regularly from our other club gigs.

    Eventually, crowds diminished at the other clubs and soon, cutbacks occurred. I’ll never forget the day Village Pub closed, which was a staple in the local live country music scene and THE most recognized place to go if you wanted to listen to the best of the best locally (pre-Coyote’s). Even AFTER they remodeled the place, put in new lights, sound system, and formed a house band…..they succumbed to the marketing and domination that Coyote’s exuded. The rest followed suit shortly thereafter.

    So, for the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to frequent a few places in Louisville. You know what I’ve found? Nothing. I’ve found Johnny Berry with Steve Cooley playing places like Longshots. After all the talent this town had at one time and all the locations you could go to to enjoy your favorite local talent…..and the best place to go is a beer joint as big as my basement? Naw…Ward isn’t responsible for all of the downturn. I’m not saying that. But, by far, straining other clubs the way that he did certainly fueled the exit for most of them and as a resulte most of the talent this town had ended up with nowhere to play.

    Hey – here’s a clue for ya…when Karen Kraft has to quit music to take a job as a real estate agent, what’s that tell ya?

    So, is turnabout fair play – absolutely – and you’ll not convince me that I’m wrong on this. Regardless of the politics involved, Ward and City Block is getting a dose of its’ own medicine. The upside is….this time no musicians are sacrificed.

  13. ….You’re seeing local government spend YOUR TAX MONEY to drive local business owners under. That’s a problem…

  14. Problem – schmroblem……funding 1 niteclub venue over another is not the problem. The way I see it, the tax base coming out of 4th street must have been substantially more than what the city was getting out of City Block. It was probably a no-brainer decision for them.

    I’ve been around long enough to know that the 4th street complex will eventually get old too, its’ tax revenue base will dry up, and they will close. Then the city will be looking elsewhere to fund the next “in-thing”. So, no….the politics involved here are nothing new. While it may be distasteful, the only thing you and people like Ward can do about it is bitch and moan blissfully. You can vote out the chumps. But then what? The cycle starts over and the “good-ole-boy” entrenches itself further. It NEVER ends……

    Bottom line, they will spend our money where they want, when they want, and how they want regardless.

    If you’re a business owner, then you either grow or die. If it stops moving forward even for a second, you’re dead. Business is strategy. Business requires hard work. Business requires thought. Business means taking chances. City Block had every opportunity to strategize and operate their business as resourcefully as possible – AND – they could have utilized the local music scene as a resource and nurtured that relationship to create something special. But that didn’t happen. So, again….you get what you give.

  15. Wow, I can’t believe this is Really true. I heard something about it over the radio. I have alot of memories at OMallies/City Block. And The whole under age thing wa snot such a bad idea
    prolly owuld have made back cause there is only one more in Louisville. Im 20 now so i dont have to worry about stuff like that to much. But Anywho
    Bullshit they are closing, Im glad i got one last time to go there before they close the doors
    Gonna build another club Thats Prolly going to be way expensive to get it.
    Fuck it. . .

  16. the closing of O’Malley/City Block has actually very little to do with the city not willing to give Ward & Don a government handout. Ward & Don are using the Cordish situations and the mayor’s “plan” has a scapegoat for very poor business decisions that started about 3 years ago. They borrowed heavily against the business for personal endeavors and to make changes to the club that were not very well thought out,researched or planned for the demographic that “City Block” actually appealed to. With owners,upper management and booking agents making extremely unethical both in the business and moral spectrum that had caused the club to be on a downward spiral that had very little to due with the weakening economy. You reap what you so Ward & Don. I can only hope your personal finances are in as much turmoil.

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