Monday, July 21, 1997
Scully Walk open,
but few got the word

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Construction workers call the footbridge to his restaurant the Scully Walk.

After a 203-day delay, the skywalk connecting his Scully's Sports Cafe to Fountain Square is finally open.

On top of that, he's $203,000 richer.

So, how come Pat Scully's not doing a little dance?

Because he knows you can fight City Hall and win, but you can still come away with an uncertain victory.

"Once more, I'm in a state of limbo," Pat says. "Nobody's spread the word that the skywalk is open. The city's never had an official grand reopening."

He's not exaggerating.

"People ask, 'Is this open?' all the time," says Greg Mastin. The ironworker was putting the finishing touches on the Scully Walk.

Seconds later, two women in business suits approach Greg as he covers an iron column with a gleaming jacket of stainless steel. "Can we go through here?" one woman asks.

"Go right ahead," Greg says, politely ushering them forward with a sweep of his hand.

"No wonder Pat put up that sign," he says. Greg nods to a hot-pink sign the restaurant owner taped to the Scully Walk's door:

"Skywalk Now Open."

Grand opening

Pat Scully knows limbo. He's done business in that state for more than a year.

In April 1996, the skywalk next to his cafe in the Fifth & Race Tower was abruptly torn down to accommodate construction of the new Lazarus store. Business at Scully's Sports Cafe dropped 30 percent. Neighboring tenants were forced out.

Pat Scully held on. He has a 16-year lease and a hard head.

He sued the city and Fountain Square West's developer and won an out-of-court settlement. The pedestrian bridge would be rebuilt. If the skywalk didn't reopen by Nov. 21, 1996, Scully's Sports Cafe would get $1,000 in penalties for every day the bridge was closed. On June 27, 203 days and $203,000 dollars later, the skywalk over Race Street opened after a brief, low-key celebration. No city officials showed up. No one gave a speech.

But there was a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

A bunch of construction workers came into Pat's cafe and dragged him outside.

A ribbon of yellow and black construction tape with "CAUTION" written all over it stretched across the opening to the Scully Walk. Someone handed Pat a pair of scissors. Disposable cameras flashed as he cut the tape. Workers in hard hats slapped him on the back. More than one told him: "You won."

"That's why we call it the Scully Walk," Greg Mastin says. "He fought for this. And he got big bucks for it, too."

Pat Scully wants to dispel the notion he got rich off the skywalk. "People think I came out of this smelling like a rose," he says. In truth, it's more like half a rose. Of the $203,000 he received from the delay penalties, he claims "about half went to legal fees."

He should save the other half. Another legal battle may be brewing.

What's next?

On Thursday, the Fifth & Race Tower changed hands. Once more, plans are inching along to replace the building with a Maison Blanche department store.

"Enjoy this skywalk while you can," says Greg Mastin's fellow ironworker Don Walker. "When they start taking down this tower, the skywalk's going to close."

The operative word, however, is "when."

Pat Scully doesn't know "when or if they're ever going to tear down this building." But, if he's still open when the Scully Walk closes, he'll be back in court.

"And this time, I'll ask for more than $1,000 a day."

Of course, that could be a ways off. At the pace downtown development moves in this city, Scully's could still be serving cold beers when its lease expires in the year 2013.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.