Guest post from Carl Swope. Carl is an Elizabethtown native and long time business owner in Hardin County.
If you grew up here and you are over the age of 50, you remember a time when our downtown was alive. The People’s Store, Shower’s and Hays Drug, Newberry’s, Western Auto, all of them vibrant hubs of activity and commerce with a unique local flair. Those days are gone and will never return, but I believe downtown Elizabethtown can be redeveloped. Not in the same way as before but even better, with local entrepreneurial investment and a genuine Elizabethtown character that chain stores and franchise restaurants will never match.
There is one major obstacle that prevents this vision of a revitalized Elizabethtown more than any other. Like me, you might have been surprised to learn that the option election we held last year did not eliminate the requirement for restaurants to seat 100 or more people and produce at least 70 percent of its revenue in food to serve alcohol. These restrictions all but eliminate the many vacant downtown store fronts from being transformed into bistros and cafes serving fine food, wine and drink. They are simply too small and the 70/30 limit is too restrictive.
Once again, the residents of Elizabethtown have the opportunity to correct this by voting Tuesday in a special election. For me, this is a matter of economic development for our downtown district and the region. It will put us on a level playing field with other nearby communities that have vibrant downtown districts, such as Bardstown. If passed, I believe it will open the door to local entrepreneurs once again investing in downtown Elizabethtown.
Imagine our historic district alive in the evenings with restaurants, retail shops and cafes filled with local citizens and visitors the Historic State Theater and the new Elizabethtown Sports Park are drawing. It can happen.
I hope you will join me and vote yes Tuesday to revitalize our historic downtown
Mr. Swope’s blog post also appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the January 6th edition of The News Enterprise.