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Neal Harding still believes the former Fergie’s Classic Grill is a premier location for a Hooters restaurant, but the decision will fall to the popular food chain.
Harding, owner of Louisville-based R.M.D. Corp., has optioned the Ring Road site to Hooters of America after finalizing an agreement to sell nearly 40 U.S. Hooters franchises to the restaurant’s parent company last year.
“I am out of the Hooters business in the United States,” Harding said.
Once the deal was finalized, he approached the company about expanding into the Elizabethtown market, but Harding said he has not heard a response and may not receive an answer for up to 60 days.
“Hopefully, there will be one there,” he said.
R.M.D. Corp. owned Hooters franchises in several states, including Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. He still owns international Hooters franchises in Canada and England and opened the first Hooters franchise in Louisville in 1988.
Harding finalized the agreement after the sale was initially announced in 2008. One representative in Harding’s office referred to the sale as a “long process.”
He purchased the former Fergie’s property at a foreclosure auction last August for $735,000. Harding said he was interested in the property because of its proximity to Ring Road and U.S. 31W and accessibility to Fort Knox and its military families.
The growth rate of Elizabethtown, he said, also played a role in his decision to purchase the property.
Should Hooters of America show interest in Harding’s proposal, he said he would likely lease the property to the company and retain ownership. Should it reject the offer, he would seek another lessee for the property, he said.
“I think it would be a good place for a Hooters,” he said.
Hooters of America did not respond to inquiries from The News-Enterprise gauging its interest in the property.
After the purchase, Harding said the restaurant could be renovated in time for a summer opening but that date now seems in doubt. He said interior work would be the primary focus because the overall layout works well for a Hooters. A canopied porch attached to the property closely resembles porches attached to many Hooters restaurants and Harding said it could prove beneficial.
With more than 430 locations in roughly 28 countries, Hooters opened its first restaurant in Clearwater, Fla. in 1983, according to its official website.
The restaurant markets a casual beach theme with numerous televisions allowing customers to watch the latest in sports, according to the website. Hooters serves seafood, sandwiches, salads and spicy chicken fingers and wings. When asked if the company may be concerned about compliance with laws requiring 70 percent of sales from food, Harding said it should not be a problem. Elizabethtown’s alcohol structure requires restaurants to collect no more than 30 percent of sales from alcohol.
Harding said he operated Hooters restaurants for decades and averaged around 25 percent of sales from alcohol. As time went on, he said, he actually saw a drop in alcohol consumption in his restaurants.
“I don’t think I had a single restaurant over 30,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.