Prime Location: Bonnie Kate space available for potential business

Published 9:57 am Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rich with history, the Bonnie Kate Theater is looking to blaze a trail for the future.

City of Elizabethton representatives and the Bonnie Kate Board announced Wednesday that a request for proposal for a potential business to enter the building had been extended to allow a variety of options.

“We have extended that request for proposal to Friday, Sept. 15,” City Purchasing Director Greg Workman told the Elizabethton Star Wednesday. “We’re looking at getting some additional options for that particular location.”

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Bonnie Kate’s history is well-known statewide. After the popularity of the theater, the site was used as a hub for restaurants and cafes. While nesting success, the building conditions brought issues.

But with concern citizens stepping forward to obtain the building, the City of Elizabethton was able to acquire the building in 2016 through donations. Since that time, renovations have been ongoing to turn the Bonnie Kate into a bustling hub of entertainment and excitement for downtown.

According to the RFP provided by the city, a potential business could utilize over 2100 square feet of space inside the facility with a bevy of inventory items. Various tools, including grills, stoves, seating and other items can be used to help a potential restaurant make a seamless transition, according to Board member Jeff Treadway.

“The electrical, the plumbing … a good portion of stuff in the building is up to code,” Treadway said. “If you look at the RFP, there is a high inventory of equipment that can be used. We’re anticipating for a business that it would take a minimal amount of money to help get things operational.”

While different options are being courted, Treadway added a restaurant could see success, especially with the development of the community arts center inside the building.

“We’d like to have something that compliments the development of the community arts center,” he said. “We want to have a multi-functional center, from theatrical performances, music and other things. A restaurant would be one of those things that could really compliment it.”

Treadway added that businesses have been able to previously experience success.

“There have been successful businesses in that location,” Treadway said. “The Bonnie Kate Cafe was quite successful. They just ran into issues with the building itself, and that’s what we’re working on now with grants and other fundraisers. I know over the years, there have been other successful businesses.”

Jon Hartman, city planning and development director, added the high stock of inventory and minimal space could prove to be ideal for a start-up business.

“I would say it is a very attractive location,” he said. “The best thing about this space is that it is best for a start-up. There’s not an excessive amount of overhead that comes with the building.”

Another incentive, Hartman added, would be for a possible restaurant to take full advantage of the employment centers in downtown Elizabethton, an advantage compared to other downtowns in the Tri-Cities. 

“Elizabethton has major employment centers downtown,” Hartman said. “Especially with the idea of expanding more nightlife activities downtown, a restaurant would be well-positioned to take advantage of that.”

And that seems to be the case over the past few months. The Bonnie Kate has offered multiple performances inside the theater with standing room-only attendance. Bonnie Kate Board member John Huber added that while the previous business that was in the building did not work, attendees were regularly inquiring about food on site.

“We’re definitely looking for a business that is financially stable, has good management in place and we’ll do everything we can to help them,” Huber said. “Any improvements made at the Bonnie Kate will only benefit the business moving forward.”

Huber added that a possible business would be able to take advantage of the assets on site and that they’re looking for a business that will respect the history of the building.

Excitement continues to grow for activity at the Bonnie Kate. Anticipation is underway for the inaugural BBQ, Blues and Brews Festival set for Sept. 23 at Covered Bridge Park. All proceeds from the event will go toward restoration of the building.

Along with the festivities, the Bonnie Kate will be hosting a slew of events in the fall, which a business could see traffic from over the months, Huber added.

Individuals can inquire about upcoming events by visiting the Bonnie Kate Theater Restoration Project.

Businesses looking to set up shop at the Bonnie Kate can either visit the city website and search for the RFP, stop by City Hall or contact Workman at (423) 542-1505 before the September deadline.