A restaurant and entertainment venue in Downtown Louisville will rebrand to a new name with historical ties in the new year.
Encore on 4th, located 630 S. Fourth St., will soon become The Black Jockey Lounge, a high-end eatery that celebrates the history of Black jockeys. Tawana Bain, who has owned Encore since 2018, said while the name change has been in the works for a while, the inspiration didn’t strike until recently.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the business was doing extremely well, Bain said. It had become a melting pot of diverse patrons that would dine in after shows at The Mercury Ballroom and The Palace Theatre.
“We were expecting a record year because of what we had done,” she said. “Surviving the pandemic was like a nightmare for us because we weren’t just known for our food, we were more known for our experience.”
Carry-out orders weren’t enough to sustain Encore on 4th, but fortunately, Bain was able to keep the restaurant alive through her marketing company, New Age Communications.
‘A great experience’
While pivoting the Derby Diversity & Business Summit into a virtual format this fall, Bain said she was working with one of the summit’s partners, Project to Protect African-American Turf History (PPAATH). As a part of the summit, PPAATH, which aims to preserve and highlight the history of Black jockeys, was a part a rooftop experience at Encore.
“It hit all of us as we watched the jazz and we looked at the Black jockey art,” Bain said. “We realized this is something that we would love to do on a more regular basis because it was such a great experience, and then we would also be able to attract visitors from tourists that are coming into the city.”
PPAATH agreed to help bring the Black jockey history and experience to Encore’s space. As a part of the rebrand, The Black Jockey Lounge will have a lot of original artwork, as well as an enhanced stage, Bain said. Additionally, the waitstaff will wear jockey-inspired uniforms and there will be menu items similar to what the jockeys’ may have ordered themselves.
In addition to the lounge’s ties to Black jockey history, Bain said the restaurant has served as a safe haven in recent history, too, as Louisville protestors used the space to recharge and rest while advocating for social justice.
“We now have this historical site where people can learn about the Black jockey, but we also serve as a site during a historic moment,” she said. “I feel like there’s something here that the community and those outside of the community can embrace when they come in — not only can they learn about the history, but they can also visit a site that’s served history well during a very tough time in our community.”
Bain said she is anticipating a Valentine’s Day opening for The Black Jockey Lounge, but that date is contingent on the status of Covid-19 and local restrictions. In the meantime, Encore on 4th’s final virtual experience this year will be held on New Year’s Eve featuring live entertainment. You can find details of that event here.