Insider Louisville got a peek inside the reimagined space at 1101 Lydia St., which will adopt a neighborhood tavern persona, with happy hour specials, karaoke, bar bites and live music on the back patio.
The décor, which is the vision of owners Emily Ruff and JC Denison, has transformed the tavern from a funky, mural-covered eatery that was known for its breakfast and ramen dishes to being more focused on accessibility — albeit with a touch of eccentricity in some quirky decorations and a wall full of art by local artist Ben Zoeller.
As Insider reported in January, Ruff decided to close Lydia House and convert it to a more accessible tavern.
She and Denison previously had looked for another location to open a MerryWeather-type concept, but the decision to close made it an easy choice to stay put.
The vintage bar back remains, as do the red checkered tile floors, but a new color scheme has the walls painted dark green. The black ceiling is dotted with orange sound panels.
Meanwhile, the bar has been expanded to add seating. A small stage has been added to the end opposite the front entrance.
A middle dining area has been converted to a game room. It currently is home to a Ms. Pac-Man game and a couple of pinball machines, with more on the way.
Perhaps more strikingly, a platform and several beige and brown vinyl booths were added along the wall opposite the bar. They are illuminated through a set of stained-glass light fixtures. Ruff estimates the new layout should seat about 70, but once final improvements to the back patio are complete, seating outside could come close to doubling that number.
“It’s hard to recognize if you’ve been here before,” Denison says. “We’ve been working nonstop, around the clock” since Lydia House closed on New Year’s Eve.
Other interesting additions include a pinback button machine, which came from Fat Rabbit Thrift Store, to the presence of Malort, a brand of cheap spirit that originated in Chicago in the 1930s. It is known for its strong bitter, and some might say unpalatable, flavor thanks to the addition of wormwood.
Angostura Bitters also will be on tap, along with five draft beers. Cocktails include some basic favorites like a “Bloody Merry,” a Salty Dog, and a Dark and Stormy to go with more offbeat choices like a whiskey sour made with tamarind and the Lydia House staple Brass Monkey, which is Olde English malt liquor mixed with Sunny Delight.
Bar snacks include chips, nori miso peanuts, roasted garlic and onion dip and other small bites. The longterm plan is to have guest chefs turn the kitchen into a pop-up restaurant on occasion.
The location, of course, is well-known for having been Flabby’s, a longstanding neighborhood bar and eatery. Flabby’s first was opened in the early 1950s — the building originally was a grocery store — and closed in 2010.
Asked if the new personality of the tavern is what the partners had envisioned, they agreed it is.
“We had a lot of weird ideas we wanted to try to execute and we’ve been able to do all of them,” Denison says.
“It really shocked us through the process,” adds Ruff. “Every time we turned around, we were like, ‘Oh, this is exactly what we were shooting for.’”
She admits, however, the overall plan was more of a sketch, and the final result came about a bit more organically, with changes made on the fly: “It was a very stream-of-consciousness process,” she says.
Hours will be 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily, with happy hour — featuring $2 PBR pints and $3 well drinks — from 3 to 8 p.m. A grand opening event on April 11 will include karaoke, which is planned as a regular Thursday staple, and live music from Winger Brothers.