Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Mayor suggests tax incentives for standard store hours; council may allow alcoholic-beverage sales until 1 a.m.

By Lizzy Allen
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift asked the Midway City Council Monday night to consider the possibility of tax incentives to get downtown businesses to "keep longer and more consistent hours."

The council also brought up the idea of allowing bars to remain open until 1 a.m., and took under advisement a new agreement with the City of Versailles to provide police protection.

Vandegrift said he hears "constant frustration" over how early many of the shops in downtown Midway close, before the city's evening restaurant traffic begins. He said surveys have shown that most retail shopping is done after 5 p.m., and downtown would be much more viable with evening shopping. He mentioned Franklin, Tenn., as an example.

There have also been complaints from disappointed tourists about shops being closed on Sundays and Mondays, or not opening early enough.

Vandegrift said the city could not mandate hours for businesses, but could use tax incentives to reward businesses that keep regular or longer hours. He said the unspecified incentives should also go to businesses that already meet whatever standards are set. “If you’re already doing those things, you get those incentives,” he said.

One business that does keep longer hours is Kennydid Gallery, owned by Kenny Smith, who pushed the idea of longer hours when he was president of the Midway Business Association. There was no agreement, and some unhappiness that he kept raising the issue. "We're not a mall," MBA Treasurer Leslie Penn, co-owner of the Midway Museum Store, told him in late 2015.

Vandegrift asked the Events, Outreach and Tourism Committee to work with the MBA on the idea, since the three committee members -- Kaye Nita Gallagher, John McDaniel and Steve Simoff -- have all owned or operated a business downtown. "If it goes nowhere, it's no problem, but I think it is an interesting idea," Vandegrift said.

McDaniel, the chair of the committee, said he had already talked with Debra Shockley of Midway Renaissance about ways to extend business hours, and said if a committee is formed to work on the issues it could evolve into one that coordinates and promotes downtown events. Renaissance sponsors Midsummer Nights in Midway on three nights in the summer.

Bruce Southworth, chair of the Public Works and Services Committee, proposed that the council amend city ordinances two city ordinances to allow alcoholic beverages to be sold an extra hour, until 1 a.m., except on Sunday nights, when the current closing time is 10 p.m. "At 11:30, they're getting ready to close, and people start coming in," he said.

Vandegrift said he would consult city attorney Phil Moloney about procedure to make the change.

Southworth, as chair of the Public Works and Services Committee, also presented the council with the proposed police agreement with Versailles, which calls for Midway to pay 4.25 percent of that city's police budget, or about $166,000 in the fiscal year beginning July 1 -- up from $100,000 this fiscal year, the last year of the latest multi-year contract between the towns.

Southworth's committee endorsed the proposal Jan. 10. He said then that Versailles wants a percentage rather than the current flat fee because it pay have to increase its police budget to fund pensions. Vandegrift said he would schedule the contract for a vote at the next council meeting, Feb. 5.

In other business, the council approved two mayoral reappointments to the Park Board: Liles Taylor and Joanna Smith. “They’re young and energetic and intelligent,” Vandegrift said. The two had completed one-year terms, part of the staggered terms used when a board is created so all the appointments don’t come up at the same time.

The council briefly discussed snow removal on sidewalks, which is generally considered the responsibility of property owners but not done by some. Vandegrift said he would check to see if there is an ordinance; he said the city has never penalized people for not removing snow.

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