Cunningham's Restaurant closes, future of site undetermined

Cunningham's Restaurant closes, future of site undetermined
A potential customer reads the sign about the closing of Cunningham's Restaurant. (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
A potential customer reads the sign about the closing of Cunningham's Restaurant. (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
Brent George (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
Brent George (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
Patricia Henderson (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
Patricia Henderson (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
James McCauley (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
James McCauley (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
Sophie Meadows (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
Sophie Meadows (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's closed for now, but is it closed for good? Cunningham's, one of Louisville's history-rich restaurants, shut the doors Monday at its downtown location, its future uncertain. It surprised many restaurant patrons.

Patricia Henderson arrived to get lunch and instead found a sign on the door that confirmed Cunningham's on South Fourth Street is closed at least for now.

"It's closed. I can't believe it's closed," Henderson said. "What am I supposed to do for my fish on Friday? They have the best fish that there is."

Brent George, Cunningham's owner, said of the sign on the door, "It's vague because I can't tell you exactly what's going to happen."

George says the future of his downtown restaurant is very much up in the air.

"I know it seems like such an unusual move," said George. "People don't usually do this. You're either open or closed."

George and his family need time to figure out how to change with the times and the new look on South Fourth Street. The street now has new restaurants, a new hotel, new music venue and soon Kindred will open an expansion of its headquarters in Theater Square.

"We just know that we want to be different in this particular location," said George. "We know that we want it to be different, based on the change, on what's happening out here."

It's not the first time change has been forced upon the history-steeped restaurant. A fire in 2001 pushed the building out of its location where it had been operating since the 1870s. It reopened on Fourth Street 18 months later.

"Before all the other restaurants were around this was the only place downtown that you really could stop by and grab a quick bite," said James McCauley, who works at the nearby Palace.

In its new location, it established a whole new crowd of fans who now have that special thing they'll miss.

"I'll miss the sweet tea," said Henderson.

Sophie Meadows said she'd call it her favorite restaurant, "Mostly (because of) the atmosphere, the service people were very friendly and helpful."

The staff weighed heavily on George's mind as well. He purposely timed his announcement for after the holidays. As for the restaurant's disappointed fans, they've both surprised and touched him as he figures out what to do next.

"There's so many restaurants in town," he said. "I have been overwhelmed by the number of phone calls and just interest in it."

George said Cunningham's Creekside in Prospect will not be affected in any way except some of the downtown staff may start working there.

The historic pictures on the Fourth Street restaurant walls will be preserved some way as well, although George doesn't know what he'll do with them yet.

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