Wharfs owner moves boat
to Prestonville; to re-open in May
(February 2005) The Wharf floating restaurant,
a 15-year mainstay along Madisons riverfront, in January was moved
to Prestonville, near Carrollton, where owner Gary Gillespie lives and
has drydocked it along the Kentucky River for hull repairs, following
the recent flooding of the Ohio River.
Gillespie, who bought The Wharf 2 1/2 years ago, said
he did not plan to return the boat to Madison. Rather, he plans to open
it sometime in May as a land-based restaurant. The location is along
Hwy. 55 between Preston-ville and I-71 exit at English. Gillespie previously
operated Admirals Landing restaurant there.
Sharlene Ballard, who managed the restaurant for Gillespie, said she
plans to continue operating the restaurant when it re-opens. She was
not sure if it would retain the same name, however.
We hated to leave Madison because it was a great business for
us down there, but we have to do whats best for our business,
The Wharf had a lease agreement with the city of Madison and paid monthly
rent of $500, plus a percentage of gross sales that began after the
restaurant reached a certain dollar volume. When the water rose, the
boats hull was damaged, allowing water to seep inside, Gillespie
said. Pumps were used to remove the water long enough to get it to Prestonville.
Madison Mayor Al Huntington said he was sorry to see The Wharf leave
Madison because it offered a unique on-the-water dining experience for
tourists and residents, alike. The riverfront is certainly a showplace
for our community, and a lot of people like to go down to the river
year-round for their enjoyment. Gary and Sharlene worked very hard to
make it successful, and they certainly put a lot of money into improving
it and renovating it.
by Don Ward
Wharf now sits at owner Gary Gillespies property along the
on Hwy. 55 near Prestonville.
He noted that three other restaurants, Key West Shrimp
House, Tugboats and Lanthier Winery Restaurant, continue to operate
along Vaughn Drive. He said no other company has yet approached the
city about operating a floating restaurant there, and he noted that
even large cities such as Louisville and Cincinnati struggle to maintain
viable floating restaurants on their riverfronts.
It takes a certain type of person who knows the restaurant business
and can also deal with the challenges that the river presents to be
successful, Huntington said. He added that the city would be interested
in talking to restaurateurs interested in operating a business there.
Bonnie Poore and her late husband, Lloyd, first brought The Wharf to
Madison in 1990, along with their Bonnie Belle excursion boat. After
six years, the Poores sold The Wharf on contract to Bill and Terri Eldredge.
The Eldredges operated the restaurant until September 2002, when Poore
retook possession of the boat and sold it to Gillespie, a former carnival
The Poores originally bought The Wharf in 1981. It had previously been
a ferry called the Cary Bird and was used to haul new vehicles from
the Ford automotive plant in Louisville to Cincinnati. They first operated
it as a gift shop and boarding station for the Bonnie Belle along the
riverfront in Jeffersonville, Ind. When local officials began lobbying
for one of Indianas new casino boats, the Poores left Jeffer-sonville
under political pressure, Bonnie Poore said, and moved their operation
Early last year, Gillespie applied for a grant from the Indiana Department
of Environmental Management to build additional transient boat dockage
in Madison. He was hoping to add 20 boat slips, restrooms and shower
facilities for boaters. The previous location in Madison could accommodate
about 30 boats at 375 W. Vaughn Dr. Gillespie said in late January that
he never received the grant.
Back to February 2005