A great downtown mall?

Welcome to the October 29 top secret, always confidential Monday Business Briefing.

These are biz tips Insider Louisville staff and contributors have collected during the past few days, a few of which are NOT double-verified like Insider Louisville’s daily reporting.

But as always, this is information from insider sources with direct knowledge of events.

And do we have information!

This is a Multi-scoop Monday, which is the best kind. And no tricks, only treats for this Halloween week.

• Scoop No. 1: For all you fans of Napa River Grill in Westport Village, it has a new owner. Wendy’s franchisee and all-around investor Junior Bridgeman bought the 13-year-old restaurant last week from founder J.D. Rothberg. We suspect, but haven’t confirmed, that Rothberg will use the capital to expand his successful Wild Eggs breakfast chain, especially in Colorado where it is, ah, wildly successful. More on this with a post later today.

• Scoop No. 2: One of the multiple scoops we picked up from our friends on GLI’s big GLIDE trip to Oklahoma City last weekend – look for Papa John’s International to hire a big-name former economic development official to work in its franchising operation. This is one of the most demanding positions in the chain restaurant world, but our sources say this guy is up to the task. All we’re cleared to say right now. This comes after Papa John’s announced last week that NFL quarterback Peyton Manning is now a franchisee in Denver.

• Scoop No 3: Look for ABC Kids Expo convention to sign on the dotted line to return to Louisville for 2015 and 2016 after a return to Las Vegas in 2013 and 2014. “They hate dealing with Las Vegas,” said a source who deals with ABC Kids officials. “The (convention) officials in Vegas told them they might be under a tent next year!”  Next year is when Las Vegas officials hope their long-planned, $900 million renovation of the 3.2 million-square-foot mega-center will be under way, a renovation that includes adding 500,000 square feet of exhibition space. But that construction will leave much of the building off limits to exhibitors. Las Vegas Convention Center’s South Hall hosted the ABC Kids Expo from when it started in 2003 until it moved here in 2011. This year, we hear about 15,000 people from companies pitching new products for families with kids crammed into town. Here’s the catch. The convention is going back to Vegas because it’s so difficult, if not impossible, to get a direct flight into Louisville. This isn’t just a convention and tourism issue. This is a huge economic development issue, and we’ve never heard anyone come up with fix.

• Speaking of conventions, this is more food for thought than something that’s fated to happen. But a city insider ran this past us Friday. This official recently sat in on a city econ-dev meeting where officials were finalizing plans to close Third Street in order to expand our undersized Kentucky International Convention Center, which everyone calls “KICC,” (pronounced “Kick.”) Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau officials have always advocated a convention center with 200,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space to compete with Indianapolis and Vegas for big shows. The expansion of KICC across Third would do that at the expense of cutting off THE major downtown traffic artery. “Why do we keep patching up KICC?” said our insider, referring to a 1990s makeover that doubled the size, but still didn’t meet the 200,000 square foot benchmark. Our insider has what we think is an ingenious solution that kills multiple birds with one stone. And that stone is The Cordish Cos. Cordish still owns the block of Third Street where the former Louisville Water Company HQ sits rotting, a block that was supposed to become Cordish Cos.’ Center City expansion of Fourth Street Live. Which never happened. That site is large enough, said our insider, to accommodate a state-of-the-arts convention center with up to 230,000 square feet of contiguous space. And, you could add a casino on upper floors, he says. The city would keep open the existing convention center for uninterrupted events through construction of the new facility. Once complete, the Kentucky Fair Board hands over the old KICC to Cordish in return for the Third Street property deed with the caveat that Cordish MUST put retail in KICC. “You could drop in a downtown Target and a movie theater almost instantly because it’s white box,” he said. “Can you imagine a Target in that space?” Such an ambitious plan could be the deal that both ensures Louisville’s future as a convention Mecca and makes downtown living that much more attractive.

We had this story before they even arrived, dating back to August 2011. Luxembourg-based Regus, a global temporary office giant, is finding the Louisville market much to their liking, to say the least. So much so that the Regus space on the seventh floor of the Marion E. Taylor building on Fourth Street is 97-percent leased. The East End Regus operation out in Ormsby III/Forest Green is booked as well. Meaning after one year in the market, Regus is in the market for more buildings in Louisville. If you have an underutilized building, you might want to talk to these guys!

• Our sources kept insisting booze giant Beam Inc. is in the process of moving its headquarters to Louisville from Chicago. Which would be the biggest economic development shot in the arm of 2012. If it were only true. Those sources say Harden Consulting, based in Austin, Texas, is the entity currently recruiting talent in Louisville from … where? Brown-Forman? Heaven Hill? Their answer was, “Yes.” Beam moving here would make Louisville the center of the spirits universe, with Beam, Brown-Forman and Heaven Hill all in the same town. We’ve been tracking this for months, and Paula Erickson, Beam vice president Global Communications & Brand Public Relations, told Insider Louisville Beam headquarters will never relocate here from Chicago. But our sources insist Beam is shopping for 30,000 square feet of downtown space. Beam wants a downtown office presence for a “global business center.” Beam execs also want to create a Maker’s Mark visitor’s center that would complement their property down in Loretto in Marion County where the company is spending about $55 million on an expansion of the distillery/tourist attraction. As we’ve pointed out before, Louisville already has the Beam mega-distillery in Clermont near Bernheim Forest. Now, big pieces of Beam’s back-office business including finance, accounting and HR are coming to Louisville from Chicago. Earlier this year, the distillery got clearance with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development for business investment tax credits based on an investment here of about $5 million. Where does this all lead?

• Here’s news about another Beam. BEAM Technologies is joining RockHealth, a San Francisco seed-round startup incubator. Which is heart-stopping news if you’ve been following the Impulcity saga, which saw the social media company leave Louisville after going through an incubator in Cincinnati. But Alex Frommeyer, BEAM CEO, says he and his staff won’t be going anywhere … not even to San Francisco. BEAM will participate in the five-month program virtually from Louisville as a member company. BEAM applied back in June because, Frommeyer said, RockHealth is among the five or six top health technology-focused accelerators in the United States. BEAM has developed a toothbrush that’s mated with BlueTooth technology, technology that lets you analyze your oral hygiene practices. Important since dental bills are no fun. BEAM has attracted extremely serious Louisville investors. RockHealth offers the best incentives including $100,000 for a 6-percent equity stake, and a great branding program, Frommeyer said, adding BEAM won’t get the money as a member company. The incubator also offers a formal mentoring program and access to a funding list that includes Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Nike and Dell. “We’ll be pitching at (the RockHealth) Demo Day and we’ll have access to all the mentors,” Frommeyer said. Whew, that was close!


• This item has people who follow Yum! Brands talking. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen franchisor and operator AFC Enterprises Inc. acquired 28 restaurants in Minnesota and Northern California for $13.8 million, according to every business website on the planet. Which is nice. But the story here is, a company that can do no wrong in China is losing units to Popeyes domestically. That’s right … Popeyes bought a bankrupt KFC franchisee, and the  28 KFC units will be converted into Popeyes restaurants and leased to Popeyes franchisees! Altogether, the conversions will cost about $11.5 million to complete. AFC Enterprises currently operates 40 Popeyes locations and franchises 1,597 units domestically and 412 internationally. What does that mean?

• Look for downtown advocates to pick up the torch for more downtown retail. Hotel executives told us Friday they get constant questions from their very high-end guests, who need to make purchases during business trips. “The No. 1 question I get every single day is, ‘Where can we go shopping?’ ” said a hotel insider. “What’s sad is, we say, ‘East Market Street. Bardstown Road. Or you can go out to the malls.’ That’s all we have.”

• Are we obsessed with this? Probably. But we keep tracking the Michter’s Project because, along with the Heaven Hill plans, will reinvent Main Street. Michter’s is still on track to build their downtown urban bourbon distillery. Here’s their distillers license application from last week. Looks like their offices are in the same building as Caldwell Industries off Seventh Street Road and Taylor Boulevard, which used to be the heart of whiskey production in Louisville.

Michter’s Distillery LLC, mailing address 245 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10016 hereby declares its intention to apply for a Distiller, Rectifier, Bottling House, Souvenir Liquor Package for Distillers, and Distiller’s Sampling license(s), no later than October 12, 2012. The business to be licensed will be located at 2351 New Millennium Drive, Louisville, Kentucky 40216. The Owner is as follows: Chatham Imports, Inc., 100% owner and sole Member of Michter’s Distillery LLC, located at 245 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1402, New York, NY 10016; The Principle Officers are as follows:, Joseph J. Magliocco, Manager and President of Michter’s Distillery LLC, located at Chatham Imports Inc., 245 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1402, New York, NY 10016 (Business Address); Flora Durante, Manager, Secretary and Treasurer of Michter’s Distillery LLC, located at Chatham Imports Inc., 245 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1402, New York, NY 10016 (Business Address). Any person, association, corporation, or body politic may protest the granting of the license(s) by writing the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, 1003 Twilight Tr. Frankfort, KY 40601, within 30 days of the date of this legal publication.