Fine-dining eatery eyes the Depot

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Progress may seem as if it’s been at a standstill, but if the Thursday night meeting of the Ironton City Council was any indication, the Depot may soon have a new tenant with designs on bringing a new restaurant to the Ironton downtown.

Dr. Bill Dingus, representing the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence Economic Development Commission, said that there was a party in place who was close to moving into the building, though he declined to disclose who the group was.

“We feel very comfortable, they have the experience, they have the financial wherewithal, to make things happen,” Dingus said.

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Dingus did say that the party had plenty of experience in the restaurant business and had already contracted with an architect to begin to work with the property.

“It will be fine dining, something that would fit very well with all the good things going in downtown,” Dingus said. “He’s extremely interested in the banquet sort of business, which is something the area is desperate for.”

Dingus said that there was about $500,000 of work that needed to be put into the building, $300,000 of which could come from grants.

The restaurateur did want one thing from the city: an extension of the eight-year lease that the LEDC currently has.

Under the plan that Dingus proposed, the business would enter into a 12-year lease with the Ironton Port Authority, which would be tacked on to the eight-year lease the LEDC currently has.

According to the agreement that Dingus had reached with the company, there would be no rent paid the first year, though they would pay an increasing amount until five years in when they would be paying the full amount. At that point, the IPA would begin receiving 50 percent of the rent being paid.

Dingus said that although he didn’t know a firm opening date, he said he assumed that construction could begin a matter of days after legal issues were in place.

“If things go right, you could be talking about construction beginning in a matter of months,” Dingus said. “It would probably be a four-month construction process.”

There is one other hang up that has yet to be hammered out: The business was having a difficulty gaining a liquor license, as there is not one currently available. The number of licenses is determined by the city’s population size.

Also on Thursday night, the city allowed the issuance of $300,000 of bond anticipation notes.

The money, which is set to be paid back over the next five years, would pay for a belt press used in sludge removal. The machine is currently in use, but because of transitions in the finance department, it had not yet been approved by council.

Mayor John Elam said that the Railroad Street project had been slowed slightly by rainy weather, but will be usable during the Memorial Day parade. It’s covered by gravel now, but should soon be repaved.