Is a key former downtown nightspot finally ready for rebirth?

OmalleysIt’s no hype to say the 29,000 square feet of nightclub space that is the former O’Malley’s Corner/Coyote’s is a crucial puzzle piece to ongoing revitalization efforts downtown. It’s just a few blocks south of the KFC Yum! Center, a stone’s throw from the convention center, and almost as close to the proposed new Omni tower.

It’s been empty for years, however, after succumbing to Fourth Street Live. And there’s nothing worse for a downtown trying to transition than blight that takes up entire city blocks.

Now, thanks to a tipster, IL has learned there’s a lease pending on the property at the corner of Second and Liberty streets. According to the listing, owners Kennie and Patricia Combs are asking $8-10 per square foot for the building, which was constructed in 1970. They also own the gas station on a contiguous plot. The former O’Malley’s/Coyote’s was last assessed at about $1.4 million in January of last year, according to Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator records.

The building is zoned for retail and commercial use, and it’s still set up as a bar/restaurant/nightclub, according to the listing. IL put a call in to the agent on the property this weekend but had not heard back as of press time. That typically means something’s cooking — but it’s just not quite done yet.

General Assembly roundup: Frozen Edition

capitol_snowFrankfort was mostly snowed in and/or frozen out last week, although the Senate convened on Thursday and Friday to make some moves that could affect retailers around the state. Here’s a look at where several key items stand in Frankfort.

P3 bill: Legislation to allow public-private partnerships as an alternative method for developing and financing major transportation projects may get its first committee hearing in the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee on Tuesday. The major hurdle with the P3 legislation remains anti-toll advocates in northern Kentucky, who don’t want tolls to be a part of financing the new Brent Spence Bridge.

The General Assembly passed the legislation last year, but Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed it because of the last-minute attachment of an anti-toll amendment added by northern Kentucky legislators. While HB 443 should breeze through the committee, all eyes will again be on the amendment process once it gets a vote in the full House.

Lottery bill: The Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee passed SB 134 on Thursday, which would ban credit cards from being used on Kentucky’s new Internet Lottery games set to launch late this summer. Retailers are lobbying for the legislation because they believe allowing credit card use will siphon business from their stores — and their 5 percent commission on lottery sales — and instead are advocating for prepaid cards they sell to be used for the games.

Kentucky Lottery Corp. President Arch Gleason says retailers won’t be affected because the web would bring in a younger demographic that doesn’t typically buy lottery tickets, and that the ban on credit cards would cut the state’s profits nearly in half — by roughly $15 million over its first four years.

Smoking ban: While legislation to ban smoking in public places statewide passed the House a couple weeks ago — and polls show a large majority of Kentuckians support it — HB 145 was placed in a precarious spot by the Senate on Friday. While advocates hoped it would be posted in the Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee — where the Republican chair and co-chair are supporters — it instead was placed in the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, which has no notable Republican supporters.

Although the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce supports the smoking ban, it is strongly opposed by one of the biggest lobbying spenders in Frankfort: Altria, the parent company of Phillip Morris that has successfully blocked it in previous years.

Beer wars update: In the previous week, the so-called “Beer Bill” passed the House Economic Development Committee by a 15-4 vote. The legislation would strip the Belgian-based beer giant A-B InBev of being a licensed distributor of beer because it also has a supplier license.

The committee vote highlighted the unique divisions on this issue that cross partisan, regional and ideological lines. Six Republicans were among the 15 votes for HB 168, while three of the no votes were from Democrats. A-B InBev has claimed the legislation would cost nearly 200 jobs from their Louisville distributorship, creating strange bedfellows united in opposition — from the Teamsters to GLI. Notable was the fact that two of the four votes against HB 168 were Louisville Democrats Jeff Donahue and Dennis Horlander, but Republican Bob DeWeese of Louisville voted for it.

Even the business community is split on the bill regionally. While the chambers in Owensboro and Louisville — where A-B InBev now has distributorships — oppose the bill, it has the support of four other local chambers around the state, including Lexington.

Meanwhile, the two competing business interests have spent a considerable amount of money on lobbying both the legislature and the public. The most recent lobbying expenditure figures from the Legislative Ethics Commission show that Anheuser-Busch and its nemesis, the Kentucky Beer Wholesalers, were among the top 15 spenders in Frankfort last month, at more than $26,000 combined. Both sides also have hit the airwaves with TV ads dinging each other, with Kentuckians for Entrepreneurs and Growth — made up of craft brewers and wholesalers — accusing A-B InBev of attempting a statewide market monopoly to push out craft brew rivals. In its own ad, the corporate giant paints the craft brewers as “greedy special interests” trying to run A-B InBev out of the state.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo has floated the idea of a compromise in which A-B InBev could keep its two distributorships in Louisville and Owensboro, but A-B InBev has reportedly rejected that idea. If such a compromise can keep the current jobs in Louisville and Owensboro, legislators will likely warm to it, despite a freeze out by the Belgians and their hired public relations firms.

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