Moist Vote

Mike’s Fish House, Perkins close;
La Grange studies ‘moist’ support

By Don Ward,

(March 2002) LA GRANGE, KY. - Mike’s Fish House and Perkins Restaurant have both closed in recent weeks, reducing La Grange’s food choices and revealing perhaps the need for a closer look at the moist vote being discussed in Oldham County to help restaurants compete.
Mike’s Fish House co-owner Mark Hughes took up the moist vote campaign until he and his partner, Clancy O’Brien, decided to close down their restaurant on Hwy. 146. It had only been opened since Aug. 3, 1999, but the unexpected death in June 1999 of founder Mike Clark, for which the restaurant was named, put added pressure on the partners. Hughes lives in Shelby County and works full time for the state of Kentucky. His wife, Lucia, teaches in Henry County. They were trying to work, raise three children and spend all their weekends at the restaurant.
“It was just getting to be too much, and family is more important,” said Hughes. “When Mike died, it just didn’t work out like it was supposed to.”
Clark opened the first Mike’s Fish House in Shelbyville and a second one in Pleasureville. He convinced Hughes and O’Brien to invest in a third in La Grange. “It was Mike’s dream; he wanted to do it and he had the experience and people skills to pull it off. But when he died, everything changed.”
The property is now listed for sale and has generated a couple of offers, Hughes said. He said serving alcohol might have helped business, but it wasn’t a deciding factor in closing the place.
Perkins Restaurant closed because of slow business through the week from the community, according to district marketing manager Ron Luellen. “We did well on weekends from interstate traffic, but not well through the week. It was more cost effective to close it.”
Some of the 20 employees were hired at other Perkins in Louisville, he said. That building, too, is listed for sale.
The moist vote campaign, meanwhile, has been taken up by La Grange landscaper David Harper, who is running for La Grange mayor. To qualify for a referendum, he must obtain 25 percent – or 516 – petition signatures of registered voters in the last election and turn them into the Judge-Executive’s office to be verified. Then a city-wide referendum would be held. If passed, a city ordinance would be drafted allowing alcohol sales within the city limits of La Grange.
Harper said he had about 200 signatures and planned to meet Feb. 25 with the Oldham County Economic Development Association, State Rep. Tim Feeley and Oldham County Chamber of Commerce executive director Joe Schoenbaechler to discuss gaining support for the issue.
“Oldham County is right on I-71 and a lot of people go through here but we’re losing too much business in our restaurants and hotels because we don’t serve alcohol,” said Harper, 30. “Several restaurants in Louisville have said they would come to La Grange if we could serve alcohol.”
Harper says the revenue generated from alcohol sales and licensing could be used for city services, such as police and fire and to possibly create a place for teenagers to go for recreation.
“Right now we don’t have any place for kids, and our police force is understaffed by three to five people,” Harper said.
An unofficial poll of Oldham County Chamber of Commerce members taken at the November 2001 quarterly dinner revealed a margin of three to one in favor of the chamber taking a moist position for alcohol sales in La Grange. The results will be used to determine the chamber board’s position on the issue, officials said.
“Though supporters of the petition have not yet gathered sufficient signatures to bring the issue to the voters, the chamber staff now understands our members’ interest in supporting this issue of economic development,” Schoenbaechler said.

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