Wednesday, June 25, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Forget alcohol, we need food

Right now, it seems Jacksonville is putting most of its eggs in the wet-dry issue in order to bring another Chili’s-type restaurant to the area. The restaurant averages about $300,000 a month in taxable receipts, making it one of the top-grossing Chili’s in the state.

But the truth of the matter is that the chamber has had more than enough time to gather the necessary signatures for a vote on the alcohol issue, but they’re just halfway there and might not get the job done.

So let’s spread those eggs around.

Let’s go back to the 1980s, when the city had not one, but two 24/7 family-style restaurants — Shoney’s and Country Kitchen. Shoney’s went out of business at the national level and Country Kitchen for some strange reason was leveled to make room for a short-lived miniature golf course.

That leaves the city with just Waffle House, and, while there is nothing wrong with Waffle House, Jacksonville should have more. Think of another city that has an industry (Little Rock Air Force Base) generating $900 million a year that doesn’t have a 24-hour pancake house.

Why can’t Jacksonville get an IHOP, a Denny’s, a Bob Evans, a Perkin’s, an Anna Miller’s or other such restaurant out near the air base?

Whataburger had a presence in central Arkansas 20 years ago but closed because of safety concerns at its southwest Little Rock location. It’s doing well elsewhere. Why not bring that unique eye-catching building to Jacksonville? Or maybe White Castle or Krystal? Krystal did have a place in Forrest City. But it was a building in bad shape in a bad area and closed more than 10 years ago. But it would thrive in Jacksonville.

Taco Bueno is growing by leaps and bounds in the state. Why not get it to leap here?

Perhaps the city could focus on mom-and- pop-style cafes and eateries. There’s already Emily’s and the soda fountain at Chamber’s Drugs, which does not get enough publicity as an attraction. Maybe the city could take an entrepreneur to turn one of the half-filled strip centers into “restaurant row.”

Or maybe Jacksonville could be the place where restaurants make their first entry into Arkansas. Maybe Jack in the Box or Del Taco.

First Street Cafe, which serves only breakfast and lunch, has done well in Jacksonville, although we still miss Cody’s. And why doesn’t Jacksonville have a Dairy Queen? Just imagine the tax collections from all those Blizzards. Cabot and Austin can boast two Tastee Freezes, which do very well in the summer.

Let’s look back to the day when we had restaurants, movie theaters, family concerts and three festivals a year and grow from there. —Rick Kron