Friday, January 22, 1999

City board puts bingo hall plans on 1-month hold

Site is former Thriftway store

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Plans to convert a former grocery store into a bingo hall have been temporarily derailed by city officials, which could spell an end to the project.

        C. Dempsey Merrell, the Erlanger real estate agent who hopes to buy the former Thriftway store at 1616 Madison Ave., faced a Jan. 31 deadline to get the necessary zoning approval and purchase the building.

        “Since we can't comply with that, we're going to have to go back to the owner, and see if we can get an extension,” Mr. Merrell said Thursday.

        Mr. Merrell commented on his plans the day after the Covington Board of Ad justment delayed action on his request for a permit that would have allowed two bingo operators to locate in the former grocery.

        The 26,000-square-foot building has been vacant since Thriftway closed nearly a year ago. Several other groceries, including Remke and IGA, considered the site, but ended up elsewhere.

        Mr. Merrell wants to purchase the building for $800,000, spend $300,000 renovating it, and lease it to the Rev. Glenn Cole Evangelistic Association and to Shamrock/BBC Gym for their bingo games.

        By a 4-to-1 vote, with one abstention, the board tabled the matter until its Feb. 17 meeting. Board members told Mr. Merrell to come back with a development plan for the site that addressed issues such as traffic patterns, land scaping and building improvements.

        Representatives of St. Augustine and St. Benedict churches also told the board that they were concerned about the huge bingo hall cutting into their bingo profits, which help fund their schools.

        “If another operation comes in, they're worried that it'll have a negative impact on them,” said Ella Brown-Frye, Covington economic development director.

        “I think that most church parishes have their own loyal supporters,” Mr. Merrell said. “If they were going to lose people, they would lose them to the Pike Street address, where the proposed operators are now.”

        Moving the bingo from the Pike Street address also would free up more parking for businesses in that area, which has been a source of complaints, Mr. Merrell said.

        Ms. Brown-Frye said city officials also were concerned that the bingo might grow from the planned two nights a week to as many as seven nights a week, which would generate more traffic in the neighborhood.


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