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Alley Cat Expansion to Incorporate a ‘Grown-Up Side’

Photo by Brian Brosmer

You did the raucous bar scene throughout your 20s, but you’re ready to move on, to somewhere a little quieter where you can relax and talk. Come spring, the Alley Cat Lounge will be ready to move on with you. Indiana’s favorite dive bar is opening an expansion in March, a Prohibition-themed area that owner Lori Davis refers to as the “grown-up side” of the operation. There won’t be the pool tables or arcade games Alley Cat regulars are used to. No jukeboxes either — satellite music instead. There will be televisions, but they’ll be muted.

“It’s going to be a cozier place, where you can have a conversation,” Davis said. “It’s for the after-work meltdown or the after-dinner drink.”

Davis, whose father bought the Alley Cat 37 years ago, said the family has long thought about expanding. When an adjoining storefront became available, they decided the time was right. Inspired by changes she’s seeing in today’s young adults, she also decided it was time for the Alley Cat to grow with its clientele.

“Your palate changes as you get older. There’s a whole generation of young professionals who want to learn about spirits and wine,” she said.

Through classes at least a couple of times a month, the Alley Cat plans on helping them. Distillers, vintners and other experts will be on hand to explain the differences in various spirits and wines, often offering tastings that will make the distinctions immediately noticeable, Davis said.

The focus will be on regional beverages. “We might be in bourbon country, but it doesn’t have to be made in Kentucky. Indiana produces some great bourbon too,” she said.

The expansion will feature expanded draft beer selections. The current Alley Cat has a single tap. The new area will have 15 to 20 available, with a focus on regional brews.

The new section’s Prohibition theme was inspired by what Davis calls her dad’s “crazy resemblance” to Al Capone. A portrait of the famed gangster hangs in the bar beside one of her father in costume, and the similarity draws double takes. The decor will resemble a Chicago warehouse, right down to block walls.

Patrons will be able to enter the new addition from the front. That’s a big change for customers accustomed to coming in from the back of the graffiti-covered building at 6267 Carrollton Ave.

The same great food service Alley Cat is known for will be available in the addition. “We have a regular steak night, and I’ll put our cheeseburger against anyone in the city,” Davis said.

The addition’s hours won’t be as extensive as the ones in the lounge that seldom closes. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. most days and from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Sundays, hours that see a significant breakfast crowd in addition to the party-hardy bunch.

Davis readily adopts the dive-bar appellation, and she takes pride that the Alley Cat has been recognized in the top 20 in the country. “Dive bar doesn’t mean it’s dirty. It just means there aren’t any frills.”

She wants the expansion to be dramatically different, though. “We’re definitely building for the future,” she said.

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