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ISSUE: Alcohol and E'town's historic district
OUR VIEW: Turn to other solutions
Proponents of expanded alcohol sales have promoted the idea as key to retail and economic growth. In the Jan. 8 referendum, revival of Elizabethtown’s downtown corridor was positioned as a central issue.
With the defeat of the liquor-by-the-drink referendum, a key question remains regarding the future of downtown Elizabethtown’s historic district: If not this, then what?
With Elizabethtown’s present requirements that restaurants allowed to serve alcohol must provide seating for 100 or more, most buildings along Public Square and neighboring streets could not accommodate a destination eatery of that size.
Basically, the business equation was thought to need liquor to make quaint bistros or specialty restaurants take root as they have in similar settings in Bardstown and Bowling Green.
For many years, Heritage Council members have focused attention on the issues. It’s been demonstrated programs and activities can bring visitors to the downtown district. The Historic Downtown Walking Tour, Second Saturday, the Christmas parade and Cruisin’ the Heartland have demonstrated various levels of success.
Restoration of the Historic State Theater Complex show patrons can be attracted on a recurring basis. But few businesses have made their home downtown. The city of Elizabethtown has made it a point of emphasis under Mayor Tim Walker, but the city cannot be the sole driving force or sole investor.
Downtown promoters are not discouraged. On election day before any results were known, Heritage Council Director Heath Seymour said the referendum would settle the matter and clarify what options would be available.
His outlook and enthusiasm certainly is encouraging.
But the low voter turnout raises questions about apathy. Was it the result of retail alcohol sales being enough to satisfy the masses? Or is the fate of downtown of no concern to the community at large?
A derelict downtown could threaten development elsewhere. Any type of building blight reflects poorly on the community as a whole. When a few offices, an occasional business and many empty storefronts are all you have at the heart of a community, it sends an unfortunate and inaccurate message about the well-being of the entire city.
It’s an issue that needs an infusion of ideas, interest and investment.
Glendale’s quaint business district sprung from a single idea and the interest and investment of a single family. The Whistle Stop’s success and influence could not have been predicted 40 years ago.
Elizabethtown’s downtown needs a similar springboard idea.
With downtown sidewalk and street light improvements, leadership at city hall and the Heritage Council, the environment is right.
All that’s lacking is the plan and a few daring dreamers.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.