The closure of the Sanitation District No.1 plant in Bromley in 1979 provided an opportunity to re-use the riverfront site on Pike Street. In January 1982, Northern Kentucky developers David Hosea and Wes Cushman presented a plan to develop the International Catfish Ranch on the site. Plans called for several restaurants, a 480-space parking garage, and several catfish holding tanks. The project called for fifty employees.
An open city meeting was called in February 1982 to discuss citizens’ concerns on noise and traffic. The meeting drew a crowd of over 80 residents. Mr. Hosea and Mr. Cushman’s presentation alleviated most of these concerns.
Excitement for the new project reached a fever pitch on May 15, when 9 railroad tankers containing 128,000,000 catfish arrived at the Southern Railroad Bridge In Ludlow. The catfish were transported in the tankers down Route 8 in the form of a parade. The Catfish Ranch officially opened in the summer of 1982. The facilities included: Miss Sippys, a casual open-air restaurant; Katsby’s, an upscale restaurant; and Swampy’s, an outdoor bar. The facilities also included a small marina. Entertainment included a Dixieland band and the Lost Lagoon Fishing Pier.
During the first summer of operation, the International Catfish Ranch drew a lot of attention and large crowds. Miss Sippy’s was drawing as many as a 1,000 visitors per-day. The winter, however, slowed business considerably. Because Miss Sippy’s was an outdoor facility, it was forced to close. Business became so bad that the owners contemplated closing the entire facility. The situation was made worse by vandalism. During the winter months someone broke into the facility and damaged one of the fish holding tanks. Over $250,000 worth of fish were lost to the Ohio River as a result.
In the spring and summer of 1983, business again picked up. At this time, the owners constructed an outdoor bandstand. From this location, bands played 1950s and 1960s music to the enjoyment of the patrons. Also at this time, a decision was made to no longer grow catfish on site. Instead, the owners began importing catfish from Mississippi. Financial success, however, was only temporary. The International Catfish Ranch closed in early 1986.
In 1987, Harry Gormas opened a new restaurant on the site named “Durty Harry’s.” Fare included steaks, a raw seafood bar and other entrees. Durty Harry’s, however, failed to gain an audience. The restaurant closed several weeks after it’s opening in June 1987.
Harry Hsu decided to open a Chinese restaurant on the site in 1989 called “Tamsui.” The restaurant offered Chinese meals as well as American fare. The facility included a dining room that sat 160, a small lounge and a banquet room for 150. On January 25, 1990, Hsu presided over the grand opening of the restaurant. Tamsui closed during the winter of 1993-1994 with plans to re-open in the Spring. The restaurant never reopened. The site has remained vacant since 1994.
Kentucky Post, January 22, 1982, p. 1k, February 2, 1982; March 11, 1983, June 1, 1983, may 7, 1987, p. 1B, June 20, 1987, p. 7k, May 31, 1989, p. 1kkJanuary 30, 1990, p. 10k, and January 26, 1994, p. 2kk; Local History File: Restaurants – International Catfish Ranch; Kentucky Enquirer, July 29, 1982, p. B9