New life rolls into historic Butchertown as Vernon Lanes reopens

Since the early 1870s, the Butchertown building housing the bowling alley has served as everything from a family home to a place of worship.
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 4:35 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Vernon Lanes in Butchertown has been closed for the last six years, but it is now officially reopened, bringing another attraction to a neighborhood that is also experiencing revitalization.

Since the early 1870s, the Butchertown building housing the bowling alley has served as everything from a family home to a place of worship.

The owner and head chef told WAVE News they hope the old location will become a new destination.

“We weren’t looking for a normal bowling alley feel,” Tony Edelen, the co-owner of Vernon Lanes, said. “This place used to be pitch dark, had dropped ceilings, so we really wanted to open it up to some natural light, expose the beautiful exposed roof and trusses we have here.”

Before the business’s revitalization, Edelen said he hung out there with his friends.

“I used to come here all the time,” he said. “I was here the last night it was open. … It just kind of sat until we bought it for six years or so.”

Edelen said the building on Story Avenue was originally a Victorian home built in 1876 before it was bought by a church. The bowlers moved in around 1918. He said the space clearly needed to be refurbished for 2022, and the architects and masons decided to take on the 13-month challenge despite an ongoing pandemic.

“It was definitely a risk but at the time, we thought that the worst would be behind us by the time we got opened, and I hope that proves to be correct,” Edelen said.

Edelen said despite updates made to Vernon Lanes, they are committed to preserving Butchertown’s vintage character while building on the success of other businesses in the neighborhood.

“Butchertown, this neighborhood, which we felt when we bought it, is really going through a renaissance right now,” he said. “This area compared to ten years ago has really revitalized in a lot of ways. … So that was more the vibe we were going for: more vintage bar with a bowling alley and restaurant.”

A restaurant was built downstairs with a high-end kitchen, a stage, and ample seating for hundreds of people.

“If you came here before, food was not a strong suit of the old venue,” Edelen said with a laugh.

Executive Chef Zachary Henderson said his cooking “is all about love,” with Vernon Lanes’ eclectic menu serving as a tribute to his late mother and the spirit of Louisville.

“This menu is a love letter to grandmothers everywhere,” Henderson said. “There’s things that your grandmother would have made, your German grandmother would have made, your Bosnian grandmother, your Lebanese grandmother. Louisville is a city of immigrants and always has been, and I wanted that to reflect in this menu.”

His food was previously served at Louisville staples like Holy Grale, Galaxie, 211 Clover Lane and El Camino. Now at Vernon Lanes, guests can expect to indulge on everything from quarter-pound corn dogs to double vegan burgers.

Any extra food gets sent to Feed Louisville to help the homeless in Louisville, Edelen and Henderson said.

Looking ahead, they both said they plan to add local breweries to the taps and hire severs, bartenders, and local musicians to play downstairs.

Louisville native, rapper Jack Harlow, spent his birthday at Vernon Lanes in mid-March.

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