Category Archives: Hotel & Hospitality

Restaurant Tax’s Future Up In Air

Restaurant Tax’s Future Up In Air

Columbus – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Robert Smith and Harry Sanders – Courtesy photo

The fate of the joint Lowndes/Columbus 2% restaurant tax is currently being hotly debated, as it is due to expire at the end of June. It normally brings in about $2 million per year in tax revenue from restaurants that make over $325,000 per year in prepared food and beverage sales. One of the primary issues that caused the tax’s renewal to die in committee a few weeks ago was the debate over whether the $325K floor should be in there at all; without it, all restaurants would be assessed the tax; another is whether the city of Columbus should simply go ahead and assess its own version of the tax, should the State fail to reinstate it sometime soon. The tax revenue goes primarily to fund tourism, parks and economic development.

“My thing is that if our legislators aren’t going to take out the ($325,000) floor, we’d be crazy to send anything down there that says otherwise,” Columbus Mayor Robert Smith said. “Two-million dollars is at stake here. That’s what we have to remember. So if the only way to get this tax back in place is to have the floor, that’s what we would have to do. If that means the county isn’t a part of it, that’s their decision.”

Should the city move forward with its own tax, it may mean changing how the existing Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau’s is funded; the new tax, in this case, would provide said funding in lieu of the old one. Mayor Smith remarked that “[W]ith [CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter’s] contacts and experience, we’d be foolish not to use that. . . We’d have to do something about the board because if it were to be city only, we’d need a board with [only] city people on it. But as far as running tourism, I still think the CVB is the best way to do it.”

The county, in contrast, wants to remove the “floor” on the tax, but keep it the way it was – a joint county/city tax. Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders said, “The county has as much interest in tourism as anybody. . . We want to keep it exactly as it is, with the tax in place like it’s always been. … The only difference is taking away the floor because having that floor doesn’t make any sense. That’s been our position all along and I don’t see any reason why it would change.”

As it stands, if the tax is allowed to die later this year, any reinstatements or changes will have to wait until the Legislature reconvenes next January; this would mean losing out on a year or more of tax revenue. While it is theoretically possible to get a short-term, one-year version of the tax added to an upcoming State special session, it seems that it is unlikely that a local tax would be able to get onto the agenda at such a meeting.

Please click here for the full article.

Please click here for a Dispatch editorial on this topic.

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6th Annual Restaurant Week Charities Announced

Starkville – Courtesy of The Dispatch

The Partnership revealed the three charities that will be eligible to win up to $5,000 from Cadence Bank during the sixth annual Restaurant Week later this month.

Jennifer Prather (courtesy photo)

Partnership Director of Tourism Jennifer Prather has announced that The Partnership has selected this year’s charities who will be receiving grants based on patronage during Restaurant Week, later this April: Christian World Missions, the Oktibbeha County Humane Society and the United Way of North Central Mississippi. These were selected from a pool of nominations sent in by the community. During Restaurant Week, patrons at certain restaurants will be given the opportunity to “vote” for one of the three charities; the winning charity will receive $5,000 from Cadence Bank; 2nd Place will receive $1,000; the last will receive $500.

Restaurant week is set for April 22-29. “During that time, we encourage the community and visitors to eat out as many times as they can,” Prather said. “Every time they eat out at a participating restaurant, they can cast their ballot for a participating charity of their choice . . .We encourage everyone to be ready on April 22-29 to eat out as much as they can and help these organizations share the message of the work they’re doing and to get everyone excited about them,” She went on to say.

Partnership CEO Scott Maynard said Restaurant Week stated that both local restaurants and local charities benefit from the arrangement: “I think it’s graduated to the point where people recognize it now and really look forward to not only participating in the nomination process, but also through the thousands of votes we receive from people dining out each year,” he said.

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La Quinta Planning to Open On Hwy 45 by May

La Quinta Planning to Open On Hwy 45 by May

Columbus, MS – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Construction continues on the La Quinta Inn in Columbus Monday. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff

The construction of the new La Quinta hotel on the site formerly occupied by the Ramada Inn will soon be completed, with the opening of the hotel quickly to follow.

John Tampa, owner of the La Quinta hotel which is currently under construction at the site of the former Ramada Inn at 1200 Hey 45 N, recently announced, “We’re looking at opening in mid-May . . . Like any projects, there have been some delays, but we’re back on schedule.”

Contractor Larry Holden reports that “The interior units are about 90-percent complete.” He noted that one of the aforementioned inevitable delays was a result of code issues leftover from the prior tenants: “It’s something that happens with older buildings,” he said. “A lot of times you don’t know about them until you get into the demolition. That was what happened here.”

Kenneth Wiegel, the city’s building inspector, stated that “Once they got into demolition, there was an electrical code issue that had to be corrected . . .Then there was some post-tension concrete issues that they had to bring in an expert to deal with. Both of those issues have been addressed.”

The construction is anticipated to be complete by late April, in time for the 105-room facility to open in mid-May.

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MSU Will Soon Break Ground on New Student Housing Complex

MSU Will Soon Break Ground on New Student Housing Complex

STARKVILLE—Courtesy of MSU

MSU proposed College View Residential area. Photo courtesy of MSU

The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning approved an joint agreement between MSU and collegiate housing specialists Memphis Education Realty Trust (EdR). They recently completed a feasibility study, and with that in hand, soaughtand obtained approval for development of a $67-million, 34-acre mixed-use university village. The location of the College View complex will be where the old Aiken Village apartments used to be, on the NW edge of campus. Groundbreaking may happen as soon as this Spring; if so, Phase I (residential housing for college seniors) should be complete by Fall of next year.

“I appreciate the support of the Board of Trustees as we have worked steadily over the past three years to bring this first-of-its kind project to a Mississippi university campus,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “We believe that our partnership with EdR will help us meet the needs of our students and their families, and College View will also become a destination for members of the community, alumni and other visitors to Starkville and Mississippi State,” he went on to say.

For details about EdR, please visit the company’s Web site at www.EdRtrust.com.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.

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Slim Chickens Coming to Starkville

Director of Operations for Slim Chickens, David Bagwell said. “We have had college towns on the radar ever since we started this plan to develop into Mississippi,” Bagwell said. “The reason we are developing in Mississippi is because we’re Mississippi native folks and we love the brand and what the brand stands for and we felt like it would do really well here.”

They plan to make minimal changes to the building’s layout, leaving it as a “plain and simple” design. They anticipate whitewashed oak slats on the walls, with a white interior and an exposed ceiling: “It’s very open and airy feeling,” Bagwell said. “It’s just a nice easy going environment to enjoy.”

He went on to say that “We’re local people, we’re going to hire local people and try to affect a positive change in their life and our customer’s lives by being here each and every day providing that good hospitable service that people want.” Bagwell said. “That’s what we look to do when we go into a community.”

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Plans for Downtown Hotel Renovation Await Only Regulatory Approval

Plans for Downtown Hotel Renovation Await Only Regulatory Approval

COLUMBUS – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Former New Stone Hotel – Dispatch file photo

Plans for a complete renovation of the old New Stone Hotel and The Arcade Hotel building have been completed and submitted to the City for review and approval. The current owners, developers Tommy Howard and Chris Chain, purchased the century-old property in 2016 from Susan Mackay and her brother, Wayne Price. They plan to restore the now dilapidated building to its former glory as a mixed-use development.  Chain said. “Once we get the building permit, we can move forward and start working on the rebuild.”

Columbus Building Official Ken Wiegel said the documents presented will be reviewed thoroughly before a building permit is granted.  Now that the plans have been submitted, the city building department and fire department will review them, which generally takes up to 10 business days,  unless concerns are raised during the review. Once this process is complete, a permit can soon be issued.

Chris Chain, left, and Tommy Howard

The two buildings were first constructed in 1905, and they have since hosted hotels, an auto parts store, a children’s clothing store, a print shop, and the first Party and Paper location. The structures had been in Mackay’s family until 2016.

Chain owns Renovations of Mississippi Inc., and Howard has restored downtown buildings, including 208 Fifth St. S., just down the street from the hotels.

Please click here to download/view a PDF file of the plans for the hotel.

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Back Yard Burgers is on its Way Back, Baby!

Back Yard Burgers is on its Way Back, Baby!

COLUMBUS – Some info courtesy of the Dispatch

City building official Ken Wiegel reports that Back Yard Burgers is planning to reopen its Columbus store just off of Hwy 45 in front of Wal-Mart. While the location shut down in October of 2016, there is currently no formal re-opening date announced. However, Wiegel says that inspections of the property have been conducted. The company has dozens of locations open in the US, mostly in Tennessee, Mississippi, and the Midwest.

Originally founded in Cleveland, MS in 1987, the Back Yard Burgers chain has seen its ups and downs. A deal with Yum! Brands, owners of Pepsi and Taco Bell, in 2002~2004 ultimately fell through. Since going public, the company has passed through multiple hands, and even entered Bankruptcy reorganization in 2012; however, they emerged from this temporary setback and kept on going, thanks in part to investors who believe in the brand and want to see it thrive.

To this day, the company uses only Black Angus Beef in its burgers, and offeres a wide variety of optional sides (including vegetarian choices) for its more selective customers. Their menu also includes salads, turkey and chicken sandwiches, chili, potato soup, shakes, desserts, and a number of french fry and baked potato dishes.

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Traditional Italian Restaurant “Gondolier” Coming to Starkville This Summer

Traditional Italian Restaurant “Gondolier” Coming to Starkville This Summer

Gondolier Italian Restaurant & Pizza has announced that it will be opening a new location next to The Mill, right in Downtown Starkville, and that it plans to do so in June or July of this year. The family-owned chain began in Cleveland, TN in 1974, and all of their food is made from fresh ingredients in-house; they currently have about thirty other locations. They specialize in traditional Italian and Greek foods, pizza, and desserts.

“They make everything in the restaurant – nothing is frozen,” Castleberry, the owner of the property where the restaurant will be located, said. “One of their specialties is lasagna and pasta. It’s a traditional Italian restaurant, and they serve pizza and calzones. They also make a great tiramisu.”

The building will also house a Mugshots location, as well as two floors of condominium space – four units per floor.

“They [Gondolier] are a very community-minded company,” he said. “They are going to be very active in the community, and well within our vision of The Mill and that area to have a lot of buzz to it and being a nice community congregating place. They are going to fit in well, and their meals are in a good price point.”

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New Terry Brown Amphitheater Phase 1 Done, Usable for Free Events. Phase 2 Next Up

New Terry Brown Amphitheater Phase 1 Done, Usable for Free Events. Phase 2 Next Up

Columbus, MS – The Dispatch

The Terry Brown Amphitheater (Phase I) on the Westbank of the river

The new Terry Brown Amphitheater, located on the west bank of the river, as part of the Columbus Riverwalk, has completed Phase 1 of its construction, and they’re ready for Phase 2 to begin as soon as funding can be raised. The work thus far has cost about $3 million, and another $2.5 million or so is being called for in order to finish everything up.

City Engineer Kevin Stafford said that going over the usual list of making sure every little thing works properly is all that needs to be done before formally turning over the keys to the City itself: “We’ll be testing all the systems next week to make sure everything’s ready to go,” Stafford said. “What you have is basically the same thing as across the river (an existing outdoor stage under the Old Highway 82 bridge with grass seating). It’s just bigger, less likely to flood and is fully ADA accessible.”

Once these tests and inspections are all done, the amphitheater facility will be usable for free events; once everything else is done (such as fencing, ticketing, permanent restrooms, etc), it will be usable for private and paid events, as well. Stafford says that, once funding is secured, “I would estimate it would take about nine months, start to finish.” All of the physical infrastructure and groundwork is in place already.

“It’s a great facility,” said Barbara Bigelow, director of Main Street Columbus. “At this point, I haven’t discussed how we might use it. Sounds of Summer could certainly be held there, but people love where it is now, so I’m not sure my board would want to move. But I do think there is a lot of potential for the new facility. It’s another attraction for our downtown and we’re excited to see what happens there.”

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Inventive MSU Students Turning Golf Carts into Gold

Inventive MSU Students Turning Golf Carts into Gold

STARKVILLE, MS – Starkville Daily News

CFO Cameron Maddox, 19, left, and COO James Moore, 19, of Cowbell Carts (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN)

MSU students Sophomores James Moore and Cameron Maddox are launching Starkville’s first micro-transportation system, called “Cowbell Carts.” Each of their two carts (at the moment) can seat six passengers comfortably, and the young men plan to use them to help people travel safely during busy times hours, e.g. acting as designated drivers, shuttling people to big games from distant parking lots, etc. Their initial coverage area will include primarily MSU’s campus, the Cotton District, and Main Street. The cost for a ride for a group of people from Main Street to the dorms will be about $8 total.

“I think we are really going to provide a service that not only makes everyone safer, but it’s going to be really fun and entertaining,” Moore said. He went on to say that their company was inspired by the observation that college towns, such as Starkville, tend to have a vibrant night life; thus, the decision was made to offer a low-cost, safe way to get people where they’re going while they’re out on the town.

While not everyone has been as enthusiastic about the prospects for such a business, their professors and the college have given them valuable criticism and supported their idea: “We try to take the criticism as constructive,” Moore said. “I’ve been relying heavily on people that have much more experience than I do.”

While they plan to keep it a 2-man operation at first, in order to test the waters, they plan to expand once football season begins. They know that the road ahead is uncertain – as they need to balance their new jobs with their scholastix endeavors – but they are confident that they can pull this off, and they are willing to work hard in order that they succeed on both fronts: “When you’re thinking of the idea, let your head go to the clouds,” Maddox said. “But when it comes down to actually making the business, you’ve got to be on the ground.”

Cowbell Carts is projected to have a ribbon cutting ceremony sometime between Aug. 7 and Aug 11. The company will begin immediately when school starts back for Mississippi State students this fall.

“I’m obviously incredibly excited for this to be here, not just because it’s my business but it’s something that Starkville doesn’t have and Starkville needs,” Moore said. “I think Starkville and the campus is going to see a lot of good come out of this.”

Business hours will be every Thursday through Saturday from 6 P.M. to 2 A.M.

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