Fayette County

Restaurant, bar in former Fayette County courthouse to open next summer

A restaurant and bourbon bar by well-known local chef Ouita Michel is expected to open in the former Fayette County courthouse in June, city officials said Tuesday.

The yet-to-be named restaurant and bar will be on the first floor of the former courthouse on Main Street. VisitLex, the local tourism bureau, will have a visitor’s center on the ground floor. The second floor of the courthouse also will include office space for the Breeders’ Cup. The top floor will be leased as an event space called Limestone Hall. LexEffect will lease the space.

Limestone Hall will be completed first and will open in February. The office space for VisitLex and Breeders’ Cup should be completed by March. The visitor’s center will be done in April, city officials said. The grand opening is slated for sometime this spring.

Michel, who owns Holly Hill Inn, Windy Corner Market, Wallace Station, Honeywood and Smithtown Seafood, has previously said it’s likely the courthouse restaurant and bar will be similar to her Windy Corner restaurant on Bryan Station Road.

Jenifer Wuorenmaa, a senior administrator for the city, told the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council during a Tuesday meeting that the bulk of the work on the interior of the courthouse has been completed. The city used both state and federal tax credits to finance the $33 million renovation. To recoup the full $11 million in tax credits, the building has to be substantially completed by Dec. 31.

“We have remained on budget,” Wuorenmaa said.

The city says money from leasing the space in the building will pay for recurring expenses, such as utility bills and other maintenance. All the leases have been signed, Wuorenmaa said.

Work began in 2016 on the 1899 building, which was the county’s fourth courthouse.

The building was vacated in 2002 when the new circuit and district courthouses opened a few blocks away. When asbestos and other hazardous material was discovered in 2011, the former courthouse — which housed the Lexington History Museum — was shuttered. When the recession hit, the city had little money to put into the building and it further deteriorated.

Wuorenmaa said there is a handicap-accessible entrance to the building but she was unsure if there is handicap-accessible street parking.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall