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Fergie's property may become a Hooters

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New owner finalizing details of future use of property, hoping for summer 2013 opening

By Marty Finley

A popular restaurant franchise using female sex appeal as one of its primary draws could be attracting patrons in Elizabethtown by next summer.

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Neal Harding, an Indiana businessman who holds around 40 Hooters franchises in the U.S. and internationally, has purchased the former Fergie’s Classic Grill property on Ring Road and said it will likely be renovated into a Hooters restaurant.

Harding has not fully confirmed the future use of the property but he said the location would be a good fit.

“It probably would be a Hooters,” he said.

Through a holding company, Utica Properties LLC, Harding purchased the property at a foreclosure auction last Tuesday for $735,000, according to the Hardin County Master Commissioner’s office.

Harding said he was interested in the property because he feels it is one of the best locations in the city with proximity to Ring Road and U.S. 31W and is close to Fort Knox and its military families.

He also said the growth rate of Elizabethtown played a role in his decision to purchase the property.

Harding didn’t hold the deed for the property as of Monday, but he hoped to shore up details on use of the building soon and start construction on the property by spring in time for a summer 2013 opening. He said work would primarily be needed inside, but the layout already works well for a Hooters.

A canopied porch attached to the property also should prove beneficial, he said.

“We’ll definitely be able to use that,” he said.

Hooters currently has more than 430 locations in 27 countries and opened its first restaurant in Clearwater, Fla., on Oct. 4, 1983, according to its official website.

The restaurant markets a casual beach theme,  features “oldies” jukebox music and contains numerous televisions allowing customers to watch the latest in sports, according to the website. Hooters serves seafood, sandwiches, salads and spicy chicken wings and fingers. It averages 68 percent of its sales from food, 4 percent from merchandise and 28 percent from beer, wine and spirits, according to company data outlined on its website

Harding opened the first Hooters franchise in Louisville in 1988 and still holds that franchise, he said. He also holds franchises in several states and countries including Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Canada and England.

Harding also has owned property in Hardin County over the years and currently owns the land where Popeye’s Chicken is on U.S. 31W, he said. He does not hold the franchise to the restaurant, he said, but owns other Popeye’s franchises and Qdoba Mexican Grills.

“We’re just excited about coming to Elizabethtown,” he said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.