January 11, 2018
The Toy Tiger was a rock & roll and general entertainment club that operated from 1973 to 1999 at the corner of Bardstown Road and Goldsmith Lane in Louisville.
Toy Tiger in the late '90s
The building occupied by The Toy Tiger was originally a restaurant that was part of a large hotel complex called the Brown Suburban Hotel. Built in 1955 by area real estate magnate J. Graham Brown, it was once one of the largest hotels south of the Ohio River. A twelve-story apartment building was added on the eastern edge of the property in 1961.
The Brown Suburban Hotel circa 1961
Mr. Brown passed away in 1969 and the property was sold in 1971. It reopened as a unit of the Motel 6 chain. The restaurant became The Showcase Playhouse, a dinner theater, before Luther James bought it and reopened it as the Toy Tiger in 1973. It went on to become one of the city’s most beloved night spots. While Tewligans, a few miles up the road, brought in nationally touring bands like U2, R.E.M., and Pearl Jam, The Toy Tiger hosted its fair share of such acts and supplemented those concerts with banana eating, wet T-shirt, and other crazy contests.
The Brown Suburban Hotel in the late '60s. Toy Tiger would later repurpose the sign
In the 1990s, after the retirement of the club's longtime manager, Dennis Clark began leasing the operation from James. In 1995, Clark renamed the club Pharaoh’s after scrapping plans to convert it into a topless cabaret. The rebranded club instead focused on attracting an over-30 crowd. It only lasted a year.
Today a gas station sits on the site of the former Toy Tiger. Most of the original hotel complex has been renovated and lives on as a Budgetel Inn & Suites while the twelve-story apartment building was long ago converted into condominiums.
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