For the past four years, Big Bar owner Kevin Bryan has had to endure nonstop questioning about some wide open spaces next door. When is it going to open? What are you planning? Will there be more bathrooms? A dance floor? When is it going to open? When is it going to open? When is it going to open?
But first, some background: The little Highlands bar with the Big name is all but 500 square feet, and Bryan knew that when he opened his gay bar in 2012, the first of its kind on Bardstown Road that now boasts two more. He was content with 500 square feet, and the bar quickly found a groove in Louisville’s nightlife scene.
It was small, sure. But Bryan added some patio furniture and an extra urinal, and it worked. It got crowded most nights, but it worked.
Then, at the very end of 2018, Big Bar’s next-door neighbor The Wine Market closed, leaving a massive 2,000-square-foot space that actually shared a wall with the bar. Of course Bryan and his investors swooped in and scooped up the real estate. Bryan says he immediately started envisioning a grand extension of Big Bar, which would actually incorporate two floors.
But projects, as we know, take time. And if a contractor says one year, you better plan for two. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and supply chain issues that ensued, and you have a valid explanation of why it has taken this long. Plus, Bryan wants to do things right. And he wants his community — everyone from neighbors and friends to his LGBTQ cohorts and regulars — to enjoy a space that is inclusive, fun, vibrant and even glows in the dark.
“Having more space means I can do so much more — more events, more mixers, more drag shows, more drinks and, yes, even more bathrooms,” Bryan says.
I stopped by the bigger bar the week before it was slated to open — Wednesday, May 4 — and Bryan showed off some cool new features. The massive two-level structure just oozes with neon, funk and sophistication. In fact, if you order a certain drink, it’ll come with a pair of 3-D glasses that you can use in one of the two new unisex bathrooms. The wallpaper literally comes to life.
There’s a large dance floor with a DJ booth perched up on the second floor. And lining the walls are pub tables and chairs where you can hang while you muster the courage to cut a rug. There’s also a new bar on the ground floor as well, along with the two bathrooms. And on the second floor, which overlooks the dance area, there’s a swanky lounge where you can chill with bigger groups, and even a small little four-top table hidden away in a private nook.
Bryan seemed excited but stressed with last-minute details that needed tending to.
“It’s been 10 years in the making, so I want it to be 100% from when the doors open,” he says.
One of the new features at the bar is the state-of-the-art Highball Machine that pumps out the fizziest soda water you’ve ever tasted. Plus, as Bryan said, there will be more of everything, including a bigger premium bourbon selection, new cocktails, more beer taps, more TVs, and even a handful of zero-proof cocktails.
Big Bar first opened its doors on May 1, 2012, and now, 10 years later just about to the exact day, it’s both growing and showing to the delight of its numerous regulars, including myself. Words can’t really do the space any justice, so be sure to stop in sometime to check it out after Wednesday.
And speaking of 10 years, Bryan says the bar’s official 10 Year Anniversary Celebration will be held the week of May 18-22, so get ready to throw down and dance the night away.
Big Bar is located at 1202 Bardstown Road, and it opens at 4 p.m. most days, 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Check out more before and after photos below: