Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Main Street plan unites beer, Bootsy

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OVER-THE-RHINE - A Paulaner brewery and a Bootsy Collins nightclub could be coming to the Main Street entertainment district under a business plan Memphis developer John Elkington sent to city officials.

Paulaner, based in Munich, is Germany's oldest brewery and has microbreweries in Africa and Asia. Only two cities - Atlanta and Cincinnati - are in contention to be the first North American location.

Bootsy Collins
Elkington said he's moving forward with or without city help.

"I don't think you go to the City Council in Cincinnati and ask for money," he said Tuesday. "I think they can mess up a two-car parade. I just don't want to run into zoning problems or code enforcement problems."

Elkington's letter shows that the Memphis developer of Beale Street isn't shying away from Cincinnati even after a controversy surrounding his remarks to the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce last month.

Elkington told the luncheon crowd that that he wouldn't rent to Chinese restaurants. He later said the remark was an "unforgivable bad joke" and has since apologized.

That remark may have cost Elkington his proposed $100,000 city consulting fee, but he said the flap won't deter him from developing Main Street. In fact, he said, he's redoubling his efforts and will visit Cincinnati every week until the project gets done.

In his letter to city officials last Wednesday - the same day that more than 100 members of the Chinese-American community came to City Council to protest Elkington's remarks - Elkington laid out his plan.

It includes at least 300,000 square feet of space, with 40 percent entertainment, 40 percent restaurants and 20 percent retail. At least 200 units of housing could also be part of the mix, he said.

"The only way to harness the diversity in the community is to have a developer-driven plan as opposed to one whose origin is government," he wrote. "We have never been interested in doing a study, but doing a business plan which will lead to the redevelopment of one of America's great treasures."

Mayor Charlie Luken - still smarting over Newport's success in luring the Munich-based Hofbrauhaus - remains supportive of the Elkington plan. But he said he doubts that taxpayers won't be asked for some kind of contribution.

"If he wants to come here on his own dime and put attractions on Main Street, I'm all for it," he said.

"What he said was offensive and stupid, and the punishment is that he won't get money from the city of Cincinnati. But I can't prevent him from coming here. And if he has these tenants, I hope he does."

Bob Snow, who owns the North American franchise rights to Paulaner with Atlanta restaurateur Steve Fuller, confirmed the brewery's interest. Snow, an Orlando developer, built that city's Church Street Station.

Patti Collins, Bootsy's wife and business manager, said she couldn't give details of the project. Elkington said the contract calls for the master of funkadelic music to have an ownership stake in the nightclub and "complete artistic control."

Elkington said he is still in the property acquisition phase and would not comment publicly about specific sites.

Councilman John Cranley, whose 2001 visit to Beale Street ultimately led to Elkington's involvement, said Elkington's plan sets exactly the right tone for Main Street: Paulaner taps into Cincinnati's German heritage and brewing tradition, and Collins has deep roots in Cincinnati's King Records.

But critics remain.

Nick Spencer, a Charterite candidate for City Council who has attacked Cranley's Main Street plan, called Elkington's plan a last-ditch effort to drum up momentum on the project.

"Right now it looks like this thing is on the ropes. He's really eager to prove everybody wrong," Spencer said.


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