The Closing Bell: Senate health bill faces headwinds; Tennessee Whiskey Trail debuts; Louisville Cream and Nirvana open today; and more

Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

Senate health bill draft would eliminate Medicaid expansion

The health care legislation draft released by the U.S. Senate Thursday would end the Medicaid expansion and eliminate requirements that everyone have health insurance, according to news reports.

Kentucky’s two senators are playing key roles in the fate of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants the senate to vote on a bill before the July 4 holiday recess. However, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R., Ky., said on Twitter that he opposed the bill in its current form — though he remained open to negotiations. Paul has said that he wants a bill that fully repeals the Affordable Care Act, also known informally as Obamacare.

Major provisions of the Senate proposal:

  • Ends Medicaid expansion in 2024, with reduced funding starting in 2021. The expansion allowed about 400,000 Kentuckians to gain health coverage.
  • Scales back subsidies that low-income people get to buy their insurance.
  • Eliminates the requirement that everyone have health insurance.
  • Eliminates the requirement that larger companies have to offer affordable health insurance.
  • Children can remain on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26.
  • Allows insurers to charge older people five times as much as younger ones. The current ratio is 3-to-1.
  • Repeals most taxes that the ACA implemented.

The Congressional Budget Office has said that a similar bill, passed weeks ago in the U.S. House of Representatives, would reduce the federal deficit by $11.9 billion per year over 10 years, but also leave 23 million more Americans without health coverage by 2026. Local officials have said that a repeal of the ACA threatens health coverage of about 100,000 Louisvillians.

The fate of the senate draft is uncertain. Four GOP senators, including Paul, signaled on Thursday that they would vote against such a bill. If only three vote against it, along with all Democratic senators, the legislation dies.

If the bill passes the Senate, it would still have to be reconciled with the version that the House passed. A common approach is that a committee of members from the House and Senate creates a compromise bill would have to be passed again by each chamber before it could be signed by the president.

Some insurers, including Humana, have struggled with the customers they’ve gained on the health exchanges, which are a central part of the ACA. Humana has said that it lost hundreds of millions of dollars last year from the ACA customers because the monthly premiums they’ve paid have not nearly been enough to pay for the health care the customers have needed. Humana will exit all health care exchanges in 2018. CEO Bruce Broussard told Reuters this week that the decision won’t change regardless of Congress’ action or inaction. —Boris Ladwig

Tennessee Whiskey Trail includes 30 distilleries 

The more the merrier, or competition at its finest? The Tennessee Whiskey Trail was introduced this week, offering tourists and whiskey enthusiasts a similar experience to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

The initiative, led by the Tennessee Distillers Guild, features a passport — just like Kentucky’s — that visitors take with them to 30 distilleries throughout the state, collecting stamps at each one once a tour is complete. From big (Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel) to small (Leiper’s Fork and TennSouth), the trail encourages tourists to make a multiple-day trip out of it.

“This trail puts an international spotlight on Tennessee and its whiskey culture,” said Kris Tatum, president of the Distillers Guild, in a press release. “We hope to see people come from all over the world to just to get a taste of this once-in-a-lifetime Tennessee whiskey experience.

Some in the bourbon industry wonder if Tennessee’s version of our bourbon trail will poach some tourists, while others believe it’s just healthy competition — like two Irish bars opening next door to each other.

This writer’s two cents: While Tennessee does indeed have bigger cities and bigger events to attend, Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon and makes 95 percent of it. And while there are many whiskeys in the world, there is only one bourbon. Bring it on. —Sara Havens

Kentucky Bourbon Festival gets new, refined logo, and 2017 poster is released

Fancy new logo | Created by Vimarc

Big news out of Bardstown: The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is showing off a brand new, sharp logo that was designed by Louisville’s Vimarc marketing/advertising/PR company. The simple logo features one graphic — a Glencairn glass most prefer to sip bourbon from — that is both eye-catching and straightforward.

“It says who we are with just that one visual,” Bourbon Fest’s executive director, Jill Hawkins, tells Insider. “The logo is a huge departure from where we were. There’s such a new energy looking forward. The bourbon industry is evolving and changing, and we are right there with it.”

Hawkins believes it’s been about 15 years since the logo has had a makeover, and she believes the sleek design Vimarc, which operates out of Butchertown, will set them up for even more success.

“Last year we celebrated 25 years, so we circled up and asked ourselves how are we going to set ourselves up with success for the next 25,” she says. “Vimarc has been a partner for the last several years. We’re all about Kentucky bourbons, so anytime we can stick local with whatever we do, that’s where we start.”

2017 Poster

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival takes place each September in Bardstown and draws more than 50,000 attendees each year. This year’s fest runs Sept. 11-17, and tickets are now on sale.

Hawkins also was excited to unveil the 2017 poster, which highlights 18 events, attractions and other bourbon-related items in the form of drink coasters. She says replicas of the coasters will be for sale at the festival, as well as prints of the poster. Vimarc also helped with its design.

While we had her on the phone, we had to ask her opinion on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail as the Kentucky Bourbon Festival is a key player in the state’s bourbon tourism.

“Imitation is the best form of flattery, right?” says Hawkins. “We do it well. We lead the pack, and sure, we have fans and they all want to be us. We can certainly encourage them to try.” —Sara Havens

PriceWeber gives KORBEL site a cheery makeover

Robert Trinkle, account director and vice president at PriceWeber, told Insider that the new website the agency designed for KORBEL sparkling wine was meant to capture “the brightness and energy inside the bottle.” The new website went live this month after an intense study of the old site and  overall redesign. KORBEL is a Brown-Forman brand.

PriceWeber discovered that much of the site’s viewers come in through a mobile device so the new site is mobile first. The team also discovered that the target demographic of the website was drinkers age 25 to 45.

To appeal to that demographic, the website features quizzes and a short animated video about how to serve KORBEL. There are also recipes and printable brunch invitations.

“PriceWeber really likes to understand the emotional connection people have with a brand,” Trinkle said.

The agency also branded KORBEL, “The official sponsor of brunch.” Trinkle said that KORBEL is most often the sparkling wine served in brunch restaurant mimosas. He said that often when people think of KORBEL, they think of weddings and other big celebrations. “But it’s good also for everyday occasions like brunch,” he said.

PriceWeber serves as the agency of record for other Brown-Forman Corp. brands such as Early Times Kentucky Whisky, Collingwood Blended Canadian Whisky and Canadian Mist Blended Canadian Whisky The agency has worked with Brown-Forman for 49 years. Other agency clients include The Hershey Co., Cummins Inc., Norton Children’s Hospital, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Kentucky Science Center and Louisville Zoo. —Melissa Chipman

New S. Fourth St. District Association to represent businesses and residents

Courtesy of Louisville Palace

Director of Marketing at Louisville Downtown Partnership Jeanne Hilt is quick to note that “business” is not in the title of the new S. Fourth St. District Association. It is not strictly a business association. A lot of people live within the district’s boundaries and the association will represent them, too.

The S. Fourth St. District Association covers the area from Liberty to Broadway and Third to Fifth streets.

The Louisville Downtown Partnership’s Rebecca Matheny said that the partnership would be happy to see the association become “self-sustaining” and start to “guide their own future” but LDP would also be available to members to “listen, hear and support.”

“As a collective group, they can be more effective advocating,” said Hilt.

The association has been meeting over the past few months and has four key committees: design, promotion, economic vitality and organization.

Like the Main Street Association further downtown, the Fourth Street District Association is being guided by the Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Initiative. “It’s a model of how grassroots businesses and residents can rally around Main Streets,” said Matheny.

Matheny said that the next street to get the “Main Street” treatment would logically be Broadway. “But we’re baby-stepping that one,” she said. —Melissa Chipman

We all scream for Louisville Cream!

Louisville Cream | Photo from Louisville Cream Facebook

If the enthusiasm coming out of Insider’s office is any indication, the opening of the Louisville Cream scoop shop in NuLu may just be among the most anticipated openings in Louisville in years.

Today at noon, you’ll be able to pop in and get a cone of their super creamy, inventively flavored ice cream at the storefront next to the historic Muth’s Candies. (Will they have a Modjeska flavor coming out soon?)

Louisville Cream was recently awarded one of Southern Living magazine’s Best of the South awards for food.

Some of the more it-probably-tastes-better-than-it-sounds flavors include Avocado Mole, Deep Fried Cookies and Cream, Toasted Rye with Espresso Banana Jam, and Sweet Beer Cheese and Pretzel.

It’s located at 632 E. Market St. —Melissa Chipman

Former Cahoots space sees new life in Indian restaurant/club

Soft opening | Photo from Nirvana’s Facebook page

Nirvana will have its grand opening today at 4 p.m. The restaurant/club is in the former Cahoots/Tewligans space on Bardstown Road and is owned by the same family that owns the Kashmir Indian restaurant down the street.

Nirvana will serve Indian-fusion food from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m., but will be open until 4 a.m. daily.

The menu includes typical bar apps like cheese fries and nachos, flatbread pizzas, salads and sandwiches.

Live music and DJs will be featured most nights.

According to Nirvana’s Facebook, the grand opening will feature Danny Bertha playing acoustic at 6 p.m., Throwback Thursdays (pop-punk band) playing from 9-11 p.m. and late night DJs Bit Flip and Panzer starting at midnight.

The soft opening was June 16. Folks on social media are reporting that Nirvana looks nothing like the old Cahoots and has a great dance floor.

One reviewer on Facebook said: “Excellent hangout and bar. If you’re worried about the old Cahoots vibe. Don’t be. This place is completely renovated with cool bartenders and staff. Great music most nights too!!”

It’s located at 1047 Bardstown Road. —Melissa Chipman

UPS to add surcharge on Christmas deliveries

Logistics giant UPS said this week that it would charge retailers up to 97 cents more per package in the week before Christmas to offset expenses related to ramping up its delivery capabilities during peak times.

“To meet peak volume demand, among many other investments, UPS acquires on a temporary basis and often at shorter-term premium rates, additional air and truck cargo capacity, temporary facilities, and additional sorting and delivery personnel,” the company said in a press release.

UPS, Louisville’s largest employer, said that the “peak charge” would increase costs for most shipments only slightly. For example, a five-pound UPS Next Day Air package from Atlanta to Philadelphia will cost 1 percent more.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the surcharges “are a shot across the bow for retailers, including giants such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Macy’s Inc., that have been ramping up their e-commerce business as they seek to offset declining foot traffic to shopping centers.”

The paper said that the surcharges could be passed on to retail consumers.

“The fees will force retailers to decide over the next few months whether to raise shipping prices — something that is difficult to do when online shoppers are reluctant to pay shipping fees — increase the prices of goods or eat the extra costs themselves,” The Journal said. —Boris Ladwig

Allegiant Air to fly nonstop from Louisville to Phoenix in the fall

Nonstop flights Louisville travelers can take from airlines serving SDF. | Courtesy Louisville Regional Airport Authority

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, which started service at Louisville International Airport in May, will begin offering year-round nonstop service to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Flights start on Oct. 4, with introductory one-way fares as low as $54, the company said in a press release.

In all, Allegiant announced 28 new routes and service from three new cities: Gulfport, Miss., Norfolk, and Milwaukee. Allegiant said the expansion of service was the largest announcement of new service in the company’s history.

“We’re so excited to grow our network and add service in Gulfport, Norfolk and Milwaukee,” said Lukas Johnson, Allegiant senior vice president of commercial, in the release. “With the addition of three new cities and a major expansion of service into Phoenix, we’ll be able to offer some great fall travel options, with convenient, nonstop service across the country.”

From Louisville, Allegiant offers year-round nonstop flights to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, to Punta Gorda Airport, Orlando-Sanford International Airport, and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, as well as seasonal flights to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. —Mickey Meece