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Friday, December 31, 2010

NYE: Fort Thomas Edition

Feels like spring today in the rolling hills of Fort Thomas, but lo and behold, December 31 is here. It's time to ring in 2011. I'm sure by now, you have your plans, but just in case you don't, here's what your hometown is offering you.


1) Old reliable. The Olde Fort Pub is offering probably the best deal around. $40 all inclusive. DJ. Band. Food. Drink. What more can you ask for? I shimmied around town today to try to talk to businesses that were open tonight and besides The Pub, only one other business seemed to be on top of their game as far as offering entertainment for the night.

I saw three Arnzen's there in the wake of the UK-UofL post game massacre and I'm sure reinforcements were on their way.

"It's the only time we do this all year," said Bob Arnzen, owner. "We want to provide a home town place to unwind on New Year's Eve. People in Fort Thomas want have a long way to get home from here."

Josh McIntosh was there taking in the Kentucky game and had bought tickets for the festivities for later that night.

"It's the best deal I've heard around," he said. "Going out anywhere else will cost you so much more. It's just easier here and it'll be a blast."

2) Vito's Cafe. I walked in when Vito and Mary were getting the serving staff prepped for the night's action. Vito gave me a sly smile as he frenetically explained the intricacies of the 5 course menu which would cost $60 a person.

Mary explained that they were sold out. Which is always good to see. Let me know if you went and how it was as I was not able to get a ticket.

A for effort:

DEP's Fine Wine and Liquor store was open and will be open till 10 PM tonight. I grabbed a bottle of champagne as they were restocking the Cook's. Looks like some will be enjoying the finer things tonight.

They had their always helpful staff helping patrons pick out their spirits for the night and my personal sommelier had told me they were steady, if not jam packed all day. I was a little surprised there wasn't some type of event going on. A champagne tasting. A cigar sampling. Something to get more people in than would normally come in.


915: Walked in and asked a manager if they were doing anything for New Year's Eve. She looked at me for about 5 seconds without saying anything, and shrugged her shoulders as if I had asked her what the square root of 98342 was.

The Midway: Same story, different day. Big contrast walking down the street from The Pub, which had already begun their undertaking of their night to The Midway Cafe, which again had their doors closed. Pretty inexplicable.

All in all, I love the fact that some of these businesses are doing what it takes to provide a safe and close alternative for one of the biggest "night out" nights of the year. You would think, though, that if your core business is food, drink, etc. you would go all out to ensure that you were lock stock and ready to go for the night's festivities.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kingdom Hall for Sale

I ran across a listing online the other day for office space for sale on Memorial Parkway.  This obviously piqued my interest since I could not recall where office space existed along Memorial Parkway.  As I clicked on the link it became apparent that the facilities (Kingdom Hall) for the Jehovah's Witnesses is for sale and the listing agent is framing the property as potential office space.  Not a bad strategy for selling a church that has limited market opportunities.

I spoke with the real estate agent for this listing and identified that the group has combined their congregation with one in Butler Kentucky.  The new combined congregation is now meeting in Cold Spring has been for a few weeks.

The only question that now remains is whether or not we hear less knocks at our door and see fewer copies of the watchtower.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bipartisan Cheering Sectors

Been on vacation for a while, sorry for the lack of posts. It took me a while to catch up on all my emails, tweets, facebook updates, etc.

Most of all, I was very interested in the comments (and lack there of comments) in the last two articles I posted.

1) A simple post on the 20th state championship, which Highlands attained this year turns into a internet nerd fight between NCC and Highlands parents - which gets 12 comments published.

2) A post three months in the making about the process of a citizen turning a thought into a possible ordinance - which gets 0 comments published.

I guess that goes to show what strikes a nerve in the readership and what strikes a nerve with the writers can be two completely different things. From now on, just as our political counterparts call for obligatory partnerships, we at Fort Thomas Matters will do our best for bipartisan cheering.

Perhaps the Wendy's in Newport decided to even up the score with the above picture after reading about said internet nerd fight. After congratulating NCC's state championship by proudly boasting "NCC Congrats at State" on their marquis - then making no mention of HHS state championship. It's too bad the marquis writer doesn't have an editor. Not sure "20 years running" applies itself correctly in this scenario.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fort Thomas News - Week of December 13

1. Smoking Ban - As expected the Campbell County Court passed the smoking ban this week with Ken Rechtin the lone hold out on the vote.  There was a bit of drama during the session as it opened with a surprise amendment that would have exempted any businesses that have 18+ year age limit.  The ammendment introduced by Pendery as a compromise was eventually defeated.

Some quotes from the proceedings courtesy of Amanda VB who does a fantastic job covering these events and providing live tweets from such events.  No one else is providing anywhere near the quality coverage.
  • Mark Hayden: "I didn't come to this (decision) easily. I am abdolutely convinced this is a critical public health issue."
  • Ken Rechtin: "I believe we can protect the rights of all: the smoker, the nonsmoker & the business's right to choose."
  • Dave Otto: "For me, it's always been about health. To me, health trumps any argument about rights."
  • Pendery: "Without an amendment, no one would be protected...In the end, you have to accomplish the most good for the most people you can."
The ban is scheduled to go in place April 15th 2011 but questions remain with a new group of Commissioners taking office after the first of the year that are largely anti-ban.

2. This week there was an asset auction for Bear Creek Capital assets.  The sale did not include the Pavilion but was interesting nonetheless.  I am not sure what BCC's ownership interests are in the site but I believe it is still embroiled in some litigation.  Regardless the construction of Target continues to move along great.  The difficutl part for those that are impatient is the hiring and planning for a store opening which should be less than 3 months away. 

This opening should coincide with the start of additional construction for outlots and the space between Kroger and Target.  Still no indications on when the Kroger Fuel Center will open but it would be good to have a cheaper fuel option than the Marathon and BP.

3. Lastly, I ran across a promotional website for CDS Associates - the company that led the redesign of the Midway.  It was interesting to see their perspective of the streetscape improvements.  Let me know if you think this is an accurate portrayal in the comments section below.

It will likely be fairly quiet around the site for the next couple weeks.  Enjoy the holidays with friends and family and I am sure things will crank back up again after the first of the year.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Parks Investment Misguided

My three year old son has recently fallen in love with the trails around Tower Park and by proxy I have fallen in love with them as well.  We went hiking this weekend (despite the cold and mud) and it gives him a chance to run, jump, get dirty, and generally burn off some energy so he doesn't destroy our home.

While the recent work to rebuild the picnic shelters had bothered me it did not feel like a complete waste until I discovered some of the opportunities that Tower Park has in the trail system that are frankly under-utilized.  It is not that I felt the previous shelters were great, they just weren't that bad and really didn't need replaced.

Lets talk about some of the ways that this money could have been spent instead of replacing what were functional picnic shelters.

Example #1 - the Old Fort Supply Trail.  This is a fairly popular trail because it is lined with gravel, is wider than most of the trails, has a fairly open clearing, and is one of the longer trails in the park.  At the midway point along the trail (I have marked this spot on the picture above with a circle) is a giant clearing that the trail loops around with a giant dirt / mud pit in the middle.  The recreation department has used this area in the past to burn brush but it is horribly under-utilized for what it could be.  This would be a great spot for a dog park.  During my most recent trip along the trail I saw five groups of people walking their dogs.  Perhaps this would not be that impressive if it weren't for the fact that it was 40 degrees and we were there for less than an hour.  Having a bench to sit on while their dog burns off some energy in a restricted area that prevents them from chasing squirrels is a much better use of funds than new picnic shelters.

Example #2 - the Motor Poll Row trail.  This was a more rustic trail until some recent work to clear out space around power lines leading from the Ohio River (this is marked on the map by the polygon shape).  Now that this work has been done a major opportunity has been presented to expand the trail network and open a few additional trails.  This would be a much more functional addition to the park than replacing very functional picnic shelters to just create an architecture that is consistent with the new amphitheater.

The final piece that is also horribly under-utilized is the river views and the old pumping stations that sit along the river (marked on the map with a square).  As you continue down the Old Supply Road you reach a turnaround spot with amazing views of the river and the nearby pumping stations.  Benches to allow hikers a little rest to enjoy the scenery would be a great add.  Admittedly I don't know whether these pumping stations are still in use - it appears to be owned by the Cincinnati Water District.  However, if we were thinking big we could even consider a foot bridge across Route 8 to the Input station and half bridge that exists (pictured above).  What a great asset that sits along the river - whether it is limited to just the views or incorporation of the old water buildings it could be so much more. 

How would you rather see your .25% tax spent?  The tax, enacted in 2003, was originally intended for street improvements and if we are going to spend it on parks then lets add some real updates to the park.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fort Thomas News - Week of December 6th

A few news and notes from this past week that you may be interested in:

1. Received a Nixle message about a "Pre-Winter Advisory" for this weekend from the City of Fort Thomas.  The instructions were to remove your cars from cul-de-sacs and turnabouts to allow plows to clear the streets more easily.  The message was sent on Thursday and prior to a moderate downgrading of the snow storm.

2. Did anyone happen to notice news this week of Merril Hoge and his family moving to Fort Mitchell and away from Fort Thomas?  Merril has been in the news recently for stories related to his overcoming of cancer some years ago as well as his story on concussions.  You can read the fact that he moved in the linked article.

3. How awesome was the Holiday Walk last weekend?  I have included a picture of my son with Santa at the Firehouse.  The event just keeps getting bigger and better and the use of transportation (horse drawn carriages and vans) finally allows residents to reach each and every business whether in the Midway, the Central Business District, or Inverness.  It also allows the kids to reach every event from Santa's arrival to the tree lighting.  Great Job!

4. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association is now providing online video replays of Highlands historic state championship game as well as Newport Central Catholic's state championship.  If you couldn't make the trip to Bowling Green last week and you are looking for something to watch while the snow is falling tomorrow then check it out.

5. Smoking Ban - by now you have probably read the step forward that the smoking ban took this week as the Kenton County Court had the first reading of the smoking ordinance.  The court must have a second reading which will likely take place along with a vote on the 21st.  Meanwhile Kenton County communities such as Fort Mitchell, Erlanger, and Fort Wright have all voted a somewhat symbolic vote against the ban.

6. Also, don't forget that the Y is hosting the annual Frostbite 5K run / walk.  The race is on New Year's Day at 10:30am.  You can register here.

Al Salvato, a long time YMCA volunteer and avid runner, began the Frostbite Five Mile Run as a fundraiser to help ensure families without the financial means can still benefit from the programs and services of the Campbell County YMCA.

“Al is a great example of the wonderful diverse group of people who share in our passion for wanting to engage people of all ages in leading healthy and socially responsible lives,” said Dana Ensley, executive director of the Campbell County YMCA.

Cost for the race is $30 if pre-registered through and $35 for day of registration. The race will begin and end at the Campbell County YMCA, 1437 S. Ft. Thomas Ave in Ft. Thomas, Ky. Day of registration will begin at 9:30 a.m. For more information, the public can call the Campbell County YMCA at 859-781-1814.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Anatomy of an Ordinance

I get emails all the time from citizens who are having issues with something, and would like Fort Thomas Matters to help get it more publicity. I know most, if not everyone, has a little problem that bothers them about their neighborhood, street or city in general. Take a look at these comments from a previous post to get a flavor of what bothers some of you neighbors in Fort Thomas.

No, this post isn't going to be a clone of the School House Rock video, "I'm Just a Bill" which was no doubt shown to you in grade school. I'm just not that clever. But to see how an ordinance gets adopted by the city, I decided to take a personal nuisance of mine to the city.

I love my neighbors. They are all great people. And I love the fact that our city is lined with huge, mature trees. Obviously, when summer transitions to fall, these trees beget huge amounts of leaves, which find their way from adjoining houses into the street. Hopefully, you know where I'm going with this.

I wanted to see if council could help remedy an annual problem that I have with my neighbors leaves getting into my driveway and clogging my drain, and subsequently, getting my basement wet.

Do these carelessly disregarded leaves infringe on my personal safety? Of course not. But do I think that council could easily tweak or create a new ordinance in order to relieve a hardship on a citizen of Ft. Thomas? Absolutely.

I suggested that the city review the sustainability of an ordinance that would prohibit citizens from putting yard debris in the street without some type of regard to the leaf pickup schedule.

Of course I wanted the city to take this request seriously, and hopefully they did, but more than anything, I wanted to see how efficient they could be when handling a citizen's problem.

Below is a timeline of correspondence between myself and the City of Fort Thomas.

10/27/10 - Phone call placed to Ralph Hopper, General Services.
Result: Directed me to Don Martin, City Administrative Officer.

10/27/10 - Email to Martin. Explained my problem, offered possible solution.

10/28/10 - Martin responds to email.

He let me know that the proposed ordinance may have merit. He would bring up the proposal at the appropriate council meeting to get their thoughts.

11/15/10 - City Council meeting.

Talked to some council members as well as Martin. I was informed that the committee who would hear the proposed ordinance (Public Works Committee - Eric Haas, Chair; Tom Lampe, member) had not yet met.

Martin also let me know to call if there is an extreme excess of leaves and if the city workers had extra time, they would come by.

12/7/10 - Martin responds to reveal the discussion by the Public Works Committee on the proposed ordinance. See email below:

See transcript below:

After reviewing the leaf collection schedule and the operations method for leaf collection, the committee feels that such an ordinance would hamper the city's efforts. The crews regularly will finish the scheduled leaf collection route a little early each day. This allows them to pick up leaves that are not scheduled for pick-up. This helps to allow our crews to remain on schedule. Additionally, most folks like to rake leaves on the weekends. If they are scheduled for collection on a Friday, they may not be able to rake leaves during the week. The current operational methods allow property owners the flexibility to rake on the weekends.

So there you go. It took about a month and a half to get an answer to my question. Obviously, it didn't turn out favorably for me, but overall I was pleased with the communication and efficiency in our local government. I still think there may be a different solution, but I'll get to that at a later date.

Has anyone else had experience (good/bad/indifferent) with trying to get council to hear their pleas?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Highlands Blasts Christian Co. 50-0 - Wins State Record 20th State Title

The heading says it all. Highlands executed its game plan to perfection. To view the video replay, go to The win gave Highlands their school best, 4th state championship in a row. The replay should be available to watch around 8:30 tonight.

Game MVP goes to Patrick Towles, junior QB. They held Christian Co. 5A player of the year RB Ryan "Bubba" Tandy to a net of 39 yards on 13 carries.

Barring Towles entering his name in the NFL draft, he will lead the team next year - and has undoubtedly put his name atop the list for Mr. Kentucky Football. They have plenty to look forward to. Both Freshman and JV teams went undefeated and will step up to fill the void of departing seniors this year.

Also on tap for next year, Highlands will be leaving 5A, departing as the only 5A champ since the realignment 4 years ago. The Birds will be joining the more competitive 4A next year, with the likes of Boyle Co, Bell Co, Lexington Catholic, and Cov Cath.

They open with 4A champ, Boyle Co. and also have a matchup with Elder next year.

Congrats to the Birds.

Editor's note:
Oh yeah, NCC won too.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

You may have seen my recent post on the third anniversary of the site. To avoid an overly lengthy post I avoided talking about the top events, people, and places that have driven the interest and growth in the site. I combed back over the site statistics to identify the most popular topics on the blog and here they are:

1. Newport Pavilion - far and away the leader in terms of interest, traffic, and judging by internet search terms that brought people to the website. While Fort Thomas would never want or allow a big box store or fast food clearly our town and area is vastly underserved in terms of shopping and dining options. (Related terms - Bear Creek Capital)

2. Kroger Marketplace - I know this is somewhat similar in nature but again the excitement just prior to and after the opening was evident. Having a strong grocery option this close to home was sorely lacking. You can make comments about the fact that Remke has been there for years and there were two other Kroger nearby (Bellevue & Cold Spring) but options that this store brought (including the fuel center that has yet to open) along with the convenience of getting there has been unmatched. I expect a similar surge in interest in Target just prior to the opening and just after the opening.

3. Pergola - the drama around the closing and subsequent disappointment in losing a decent dining option in Fort Thomas after such little time. Of course this disappointment has subsided as Danny Krebs took some of his menu options to a more family friendly Fort Thomas Pub.

4. Fort Thomas Swim Club - the level of interest and traffic related to this topic probably has to do with two things - 1.the lack of a decent website for the swim club and 2.the large waiting list of people interested in gaining membership.  It is one of the more sought after memberships in Fort Thomas.

5. Chipotle - keeping with the 'what's coming to Newport Pavilion' theme, there has been a lot of traffic related to the possibility of Chipotle coming to Newport Pavilion. You may remember that Chipotle was in the original site plan but once the financial troubles hit Bear Creek their plans were shelved and a store was opened a couple exits down the highway at the entrance to NKU. Recent plans call for the build out of Chipotle and other fast casual options once the Target is completed.

6. Vernon Swim Club - while the original posts were related to the need for a new pool (which was subsequently completed with a nice upgrade) one of the primary drivers for traffic related to this topic was people looking for a blog site of an irate neighbor whom started their own blog critical of the swim club.

7. Highlands Drama Program - this blog seems to be providing the best coverage of the Highlands drama program including the beginning of a new booster group for the drama program.  The theater and related programming is truly a gem for the community.

8. The Candy Cottage - This small candy shop has been a nice addition to the Central Business District.  It was fun watching kids after school play around at the corner of Highland and Fort Thomas Ave.  This is a good Sunday afternoon diversion for the kids and their first few months have been quite successful.

9. Memorial Parkway Apartments - I believe this interest in this one is the curiousity factor.  Everyone wants to know who cut down all the trees, letf the sidewalk undone, tore out a hillside, and then let the weeds overgrow everything rather than completing the additional apartment buildings.

10. Cake Towne - this new addition to the Fort Thomas dining scene has had high interest in the past couple months as residents are curious about menu.

Honorable mentions:
A. Deer Hunt (related ordinance)
B. Fort Thomas Snow Days - a topic that may heat up again soon as winter weather approaches. I suppose we'll see if the administration learned anything about a reasonable closure standards from last season's fiasco
C. Highlands High School Football

Monday, November 29, 2010

Graeters Status at Churchill

By now many of you have seen the reports of Graeter's closing their location in Newport / Fort Thomas near Starbucks.  The franchisee who runs this location is 'closing' all 8 stores.  While I do not know the specifics related to International Brand Services LLC, the franchisee, it appears they are having some financial difficulty.

I spoke with the owner of the location on Grand Avenue and he indicated that the franchisee had been behind on their rent payments and he had known that they were planning on closing.  As a recent blog post from Developing Now indicates, Richard Graeter is negotiating a lease on the store front to turn the location into a company owned store.  So there appears to hope that a Graeters can remain in our community but not likely without some service disruption and a likely closing for some period of time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Another Reason Newspapers are Dying

Trying to find any coverage of the Highlands game tonight on Cincinnati / and it appears they didn't even have a reporter at the game.  The semifinals of the state championship and no reporters cover the game.

Once again I turned to Twitter and found multiple people reporting a Highlands victory 34- 6.  One game away from a record fourth state championship.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving neighbors! I, for one, am very thankful to live in a community where the biggest problems are dealing with signs in yards, neighbors putting leaves into the streets prematurely, and kids playing their music too loud in their cars.

We have a great city. End of story.

And just as mashed potatoes naturally pairs with turkey on Thanksgiving, so does a Fort Thomas Matters turkey day post with a Highlands betting line prognostication. Analysis provided by the Fort Thomas Independent Schools blog:

HIGHLANDS' KEYS TO VICTORY: Highlands hits the road again and will face another hostile environment. Towles along with running backs Jordan Streeter, Corey Compton and Jake True will need to get it done against a defense that allowed the fewest rushing yards per game (67 ypg) of any 5A team in the state. All of it starts up front for the Bluebirds, where the offensive line has made great strides to this point of the season. Highlands' defense knows what is coming. Stopping the run is everyone's priorities. The team will lean on Ty Seidl, Ben Lofland, Drake Bruns, and Austin Abner to make plays all over the field. If Highlands can get up a couple of scores early, it will be a long night for Harlan County.

HARLAN COUNTY'S KEYS TO VICTORY: Look for Harlan County to follow Johnson's Central blueprint from a week ago. The Black Bears must move the chains and grind it out. Not only will it shorten the game, but it will keep Highlands' potent offense cold on the sidelines. They aren't going to stop Towles, but they have to contain at least one element of his game. Jake Middleton, Zach Chitwood, and Carson Whitehead need to have big nights on defense and not allow the Bluebirds to break tackles and turn two and three-yard plays into 20-yard gains. Winning the turnover battle is a must and defensive back Cory Brewer (5 INT's) has displayed a nose for the football.

Collier's Take:
Harlan County has improved all year, but Mueller has outdone himself this year with an atypically small Highlands team. Even with the game being held in Eastern Ky, I think Highlands system is too much for the slow-footed mountain boys.
Highlands (-9.5) @ Harlan County

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fort Thomas Home Sales Mirror Area Trends

It has been a few months since I have taken the temperature on the Fort Thomas real estate market and as we approach the end of the year it seemed as good a time as any to take the temperature on the market. Since I am a numbers guy lets take a quick look at a chart.

While the median home price has bumped up a bit the total sales have fallen dramatically. This seems to be mirroring the larger national trend as the government stimulus dried up so did home sales. Evidence of this can be found outside my front window looking at my neighbor's home. They moved out of the area over three months ago and despite being reasonably priced (Lumley is a great street to live on - not that I am biased or anything) I have seen little activity on the home.
Despite this somewhat dour environment I am encouraged by the continued innovation of real estate agents in their quest to earn a commission on their client's homes. The latest is the use of YouTube to provide more than the usual 3D view or a few random pictures on the MLS. I am linking a couple videos for your viewing pleasure.

Grandview Ave Cape Cod - my personal favorite because of the music they laid over the pictures

Robson - this video they didn't even both describing the house - the music is so good.

While this isn't a major advance on the Real Estate - Insight Channel 9 - they keep popping up on every google search I do.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fort Thomas Matters Turns 3

It has been a great year for Fort Thomas Matters and we hope to continue to add value to the community by providing the best news and commentary on Fort Thomas.  A few highlights of this past year:
  • Overall traffic to the site has tripled since our second anniversary
  • added Fort Thomas Matters as a news contributor to their Fort Thomas page.  While we give mainstream media a hard time this is the Enquirer's attempt to leverage all the 'local journalists' that are providing more information faster than their continually shrinking staff can provide.  This is a good step at transforming itself into a new media powerhouse but times are challenging nonetheless.
  • We of course added Mark Collier as a writer for the blog.  Mark has added a different voice, a dose of comedy, and has managed to upset everyone on West Southgate.  As a result of having an additional writer the total posts increased from 73 to over 140 posts.  Hopefully each of you feel the site is even more valuable as a news source.
  • The site experienced its largest traffic day to date with nearly 1,000 page views on August 12th the day after the Council meeting regarding the noise ordinance and again the day before the election just two short weeks ago
Now that we have recapped what the site experienced in the previous year I want to touch a bit on what the site may have in store in the coming year:
  • A site redesign is in order.  You will notice that we are constantly toying with the look and feel of the site to get to a professional look that gets you the information you are looking for without having to scroll for minutes.
  • We love to have different opinions on the site.  Mark was a great addition this past year and added another voice to what was becoming a rather stale site.  If anyone is interested in being a guest blogger just send Mark or I an email and we'll make it happen.
  • Anyone interested in a unique advertising opportunity?  Fort Thomas Matters is officially selling advertising on the site.  If you are a business owner in Fort Thomas or surrounding communities you will not find a better option for your money - not Inside Fort Thomas or the Recorder.  We have a rapidly growing and engaged readership, the ability to send readers directly to your business website, and an ability to measure the effectiveness of your ad campaign.
  • While the site's popularity has largely spread based on word of mouth we would like to expand the reach to those who are not on Twitter or using Google search on their smart phone.  As a result you may start to see some more traditional promotion of the site pop up around town.
Having said all that the most important part of the growth in the past year and the future of this site is you the reader.  Thank you for reading!  Please send Mark or I an email if you have any suggestions, news stories, or advertising inquiries.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Olde Fort Pub New Dining Experience

It's obvious the Olde Fort Pub is trying to evolve. With or without the impending smoking ban, Danny Krebs and Bob Arnzen are giving those both for and against a new option.

The back area of the establishment has been converted to a non-smoking area, family-friendly dining room.

Other changes:
  • Lots more menu items
  • Six for $6 Lunch Combo
  • Heated deck area in the back
Before I write any further, I must warn you: All of my food reviewing experience comes from watching Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. As this may be a little too detailed for some, just skip to the bottom bolder text to get your Cliff's Notes version. Without further adieu, here are my unabashed thoughts on the changes to the Olde Fort Pub.

As I walked past Scotty Anderson unloading his musical paraphernalia, I saw familiar faces spread about like confetti thrown in the air. I wanted to walk straight back to the non-smoking area to see if I could tell a difference. Indeed, I could. As the night went on, into the non-family hours, it did seem to waft back - but I doubt that would bother anyone at the pub during those times.

I poked my head into the kitchen and saw Danny and Jake Krebs grinding out their orders. I was anxious to see what changes were made to the menu. What was a small, more bar oriented menu before had expanded to a multitude of starters soups, salads and my favorite - paninis.

My bride's standard order - the garlic white bean hummus - was consistently flavorsome. I almost opted for the jalapeno popper, which came with a homemade pineapple plum sauce for dipping before we decided to try one of the new appetizers - the fried pickles - which came with a spicy, creamy horseradish sauce.

They came out piping hot, and we dove right in. Big mistake, as I still have the remnants of a burnt roof of my mouth this afternoon. After being a little more deliberate, the flakiness of the batter contrasted really well with the cool, tartness of the pickle spear. The horseradish was a must - adding just the right amount of kick. When my bride wasn't looking, I pulled a Costanza and double dipped.

We had some friends come up as Adam Zepf's benefit began to overlap, so we ordered the Pub Sampler Platter. It came with onion rings, gooey mozzarella cheese sticks, chicken wings (with 4 different sauces) and everyone's favorite - the chips and black bean corn salsa.

I tried scribbling down some notes from the peanut gallery about the sampler. All that I can understand from my rumpled napkin notes are the following:
  • Fresh change from regular salsa
  • Love the touch of cilantro
  • "I usually don't like wings, but this buffalo sauce makes me want another"
Before I get to my favorite thing - the Italian Sausage Panini - my bride would not stop gushing about the "Soup of the Moment" - the clam chowder. I did get a couple of bites in, mainly because she was Bogarting the spoon, and it was very filling. A cup was plenty. I lived on a 90 foot schooner off the coast of Maine during a summer so I've had my share of clam chowder - this was very authentic.

The Italian Sausage Panini - which is one of many new items - did not taste like bar food. It was absolutely outstanding. The waitress had actually said they were really surprised at how well it was doing, even commenting that they didn't think it would be one of the more successful sandwiches on the menu.

It was stocked full of flavor. Two sweet Italian sausages, split down the middle, stuffed with caramelized onions and green peppers. The mozzarella was so plentiful that I had to pull the sandwich about a foot away from my face - like they do in the pizza commercials.

Marinara sauce was ladled on top and everything was laid out on a grilled flat Panini bread. The sweetness of the sausage and the spiciness of the peppers couldn't have worked better. It'll be in my arsenal of go-to menu items, most definitely.

The changes will not go unnoticed. The feel of the Olde Fort Pub is still there - but it's not just a bar with bar food now. It's your old, familiar hangout - with really, really good food.

Highlands Beats Johnson Central to Advance to Semis

If there were a place for a subtext in the title section of this post, it would read "Collier Quits Day Job, Moves to Vegas to Set High School Football Betting Lines."

Last Thursday, after the home win vs. Dixie, and amidst anonymous posters taking the contrarian view to mine, I saw the Highlands/Johnson Central game as a 6 point game, giving the Birds the advantage. I wonder if the anonymous poster will step up and pay our bet of a 915 burger.

Perhaps it was the fact that just last week against Cov Cath, a Johnson Central running back had 465 yards rushing. My running backs in Madden for Xbox don't even amass that amount of yards.

After going up 14-0 at halftime, Highlands withstood 4 straight passes into their endzone to end the game, while Johnson Central looked for an equalizer. Obviously they didn't, and Highlands won 21-14.

So as soon as I can analyze the next matchup - which involves throwing darts at a dartboard - I'll get the next line out. The Birds will play Harlan County (No. 13 in 5A, next week in the semi-finals).

I guess the only thing that really matters is the Birds getting their 20th state championship - and 4th in a row (which would be the only time Highlands has won back-to-back-to-back-to-back).

-- On a completely unrelated note, had a great time at Adam Zepf's Benefit at the Olde Fort Pub last night. Thanks to the Arnzens, Krebs and Adam's family. I did get there early to try the new menu and new dining atmosphere, so I will post my first attempt at a food review later in the day.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Great Weekend Fun with the Kids

Here is a great idea if you want to get the kids out of the house this weekend.  The Middle School is presenting a production of Once on This Island - junior version.  This is a fun play and shorter version perfect for kids with short attention spans.  It is so short in fact that there isn't even an intermission.  Go check it out as they have shows at 7:30pm on Saturday and Monday and 2pm on Sunday.  Good options for every family to enjoy.  Go check them out if you have a chance.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Benefit for Ft. Thomas Man Tomorrow

Adam Zepf, (Highlands graduate of 2001) who severely injured his leg and knee during a freak injury at his workplace would love some good old Fort Thomas, Cake Town love. There is a benefit in his honor tomorrow at The Olde Fort Pub.

Zepf, who was working on a horse farm and starting his own business, describes the experience pretty succinctly. However, all you really need to do it look at the bruising and swelling, which is still there, and well - a picture says a thousand words.

"I was picking up a horse's leg to trim the foot. The horse to blew up and starting bucking. It just struck through my leg. There wasn't anything I could do."

As it happens, Adam was caught during a period when he had been without health insurance and has been hampered with thousands of dollars in hospital bills.

"Starting my own business, there are a few things that you sacrifice to further your business. Unfortunately I was one of the unlucky ones you hear about who didn't have health insurance," Zepf said.

This is the type of charity I can definitely get behind. Not because I know him and like him, but because he's a part of our community. Let's see if we can help him out.

"I never wanted to be on this end of a benefit type thing," he said. "I've helped out with others. It's really been weird getting some help with this."

If you are going to head out tomorrow (Friday 11-19) for a date night , family night or just a night out with the ladies or the fellas - do your good deed for the day and eat at the Olde Fort Pub. All it'll take is a $10 suggested donation.
  • 10% of the proceeds of your dinner bill will go to his medical expenses, via Danny Krebs (formerly of Pergola) They have a brand new smoke free part of the restaurant - which I will be interested in seeing.
  • Stay for the Scotty Anderson Band 8:30 - 10:30
  • Raffles
  • Door Prizes
  • Split the Pot
For more information, here's the Facebook group.

New Signage up at Newport Pavilion

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Smoking Ban Public Reading Twitter Feed

Via Amanda VanBenschoten (follow her here)
  • Campbell Co Fiscal Court meeting packed for first reading of indoor smoking ban. All sides here: pro-ban & anti-ban tea party, biz owners.
  • First biz item at Campbell Fiscal Court meeting: Duke Energy giving county $19K grant to buy iPads to go paperless for FC meetings.
  • Public hearing underway now at Campbell Fiscal Court meeting on proposed indoor smoking ban. Just a 1st reading; no vote to be held tonight.
  • Jim Cline of Cline's on the River: "We're ekeing it out now, and this (smoking) ban will wipe us out."
  • Much like a wedding, the room appears to be divided, with ban supporters on the left & opponents on right. At least 120 people in audience.
  • Several speakers at public hearing have called proposed indoor smoking ban "socialist", "communist".
  • Tim Nolan doing a head count now at smoke ban hearing - we might be at or over fire code.
  • @avbnky But is smoking allowed at the meeting? / Nope - smoking already banned in gov't buildings.
  • 10 speakers in at indoor smoke ban public hearing, half oppose and half support - but just one of the supporters is a Campbell Co resident.
  • Pat Carroll of Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Assn. says OH smoking ban has driven mom-and-pop bars out of business there.
  • 50 min. & 21 speakers in to smoke ban hearing, supporters say it's a pub health issue & opponents say it's a property rights issue.
  • An hour in to smoke ban public hearing, every ban supporter has thanked Fiscal Ct for taking the issue up & every biz owner opposes ban.
  • Another indoor smoke ban public hearing fun fact: Nearly every supporter has urged Fiscal Ct to pass a *comprehensive* ban w/no exemptions.
  • Tom Murphy of Cold Spring to Campbell Fiscal Ct on smoke ban: "Gary Moore and Ralph Drees owe you guys big time" for taking political heat.
  • Of the 30 speakers at smoke ban public hearing, 14 oppose it (13 of them live or own biz in Campbell) & 13 support ban (4 live in Campbell)
  • William Baxter, a jukebox vendor from Anderson Twp, says his biz down 34%, has had to lay off 4 due to OH smoking ban.
  • Nolan needles Pendery; now in a spat with Dave Otto over comments during election.
  • Campbell Co public hearing on indoor smoke ban just hit 2 hrs & 45 speakers.
  • Smoke ban fun fact: 38% of Campbell Co bizn are now smoke-free. NKY-wide, 75% of restaurants (not incl. bars-only) are smoke-free.

City Council Meeting recap 11/15/10

Noise Ordinance Curfew will stay status quo until June 1, 2011.

  • The Labor, Law and License Committee will review the current ordinance that calls for the closing of outdoor seating at 11 on week days and midnight on weekends next May during a committee meeting.
  • Whatever that committee will decide, whether it be status quo or redacting it altogether, the new ordinance will be in effect next June.
  • Councilwoman Steller did note that no complaints or issues had been reported by police.
Police Department Going 007

  • Lt. Gadzala reported that the city has obtained two grants to upgrade the Police Dept.
  1. A license plate reader, which when mounted on a patrol car, can take a picture of each car's license plate it passes. This has been in commission for some time now, and can help with stolen cars, amber alerts and the information it collects is refreshed every day. Geez, and people think Google Street View is invasive.
The grant was obtained via the Newport Police Dept through Hamilton Co.

2. 11 tazers are now in force, much to the dismay of college protesters everywhere.

Random updates

  • A secured lock box is available in the lobby of the city building to dispose unused prescription drugs.
  • Highland Park and Tower Park's old restroom facilities are now demolished. Rossford Park's has been roughly graded and construction on that project is ahead of schedule.
Quote of the night:

  • A pretty uneventful council meeting was, for me at least, highlighted by the portion of the meeting where the public has the opportunity to address council. I have not been to the last couple meetings leading up to it, but apparently a couple had been contacted by the city because one of their neighbors had complained that they had built a part of their fence on the public's right of way. City ordinance stipulates that you cannot build personal improvements on public land.
  • From what I gathered, this couple had bought the house from someone who had maintained this portion of land for over 20 years - and therefore had assumed it was part of their property.
  • The council - which pointed out at least 4 times that they felt bad for the couple - took the advice of the city attorney - which was they had to take down the fence on account of the fact that if something were to happen to anyone involving the fence, the city would be named in a lawsuit.
  • Now, had it not been for the neighbor pointing out that they had built this portion of the fence on public property - no one would have been the wiser, and everyone would have continued on with their life. But since most ordinances are complaint driven, Mayor Brown summed up my thoughts - and likely many's:
"It's just unfortunate that a complaint was filed at all."

  • My thoughts exactly.

Public Hearing on Smoking Ordinance

  • This was not apart of the city council meeting, but a public hearing will be at the Newport Courthouse (1098 Monmouth St.), tomorrow the 17th at 5:30 PM. Should be interesting to see what Steve Pendery does here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Incoming Commissioners Reaffirm Committment to Smoking Ban Repeal

I published my last post and indicated I still had some open questions about the brilliance of passing a ban that would likely be overturned in a few short weeks.

Some of the feedback that I received from that post included the following points:
  1. While it would likely be symbolic a ban could send a message and turn the tide of opinion
  2. Passing a ban could be very smart if either of the incoming commissioners were saying they were in favor of the ban only to get elected but had different convictions. (Keep this one in mind later in the this post)
While these are possible outcomes, I had an opportunity to speak with a couple of the Commissioners who will make up the Commission after the first of the year and they reaffirmed their commitment to repealing any ban that may be passed.  Pete Garrett had this to say:
As I said 5 years ago when I first ran I am against the smoking ban. I knocked on over 10,000 doors (many in Ft. Thomas) during the campaign this year and talked to a lot of people and saw little support for the ban. There is much less support than 4 years ago. I will vote to repeal the ban.
It is clear where Mr Garrett stands on the issue but my conversation with Ken Rechtin today left a possible opening for those hoping for the possibility that the ban will not be repealed.  Mr Rechtin began his conversation by reiterating his disagreement with the current ordinance.
The current ordinance designates a private club as the only exception and even a 'private club' is tightly defined.  This is not a middle ground.  I have been consistent in my viewpoint that we have overstepped government's role.  It is important to realize that the argument about public spaces is not true.  We are not dealing with a public space.  Businesses are private property and the public is invited in.
While this does not sound good for proponents of a smoking ban Rechtin left the door slightly ajar that the ordinance could withstand two new commissioners.  When asked directly whether he would make the motion to overturn the ordinance he had this to say:
I will not make the motion or second the motion to overturn. 
Apparently he respects ordinances passed by previous commissions more than his conviction that such an ordinance is not the appropriate role of government.  I followed with the obvious next question - "will you vote to overturn if the other two commissioners bring it forward and second the motion" - his answer was a solid yes.

Ken Rechtin did shed a little light on why the ordinance will be heard and voted for.  He indicated that there has been a long and productive debate (3 years in the making) on the smoking issue and that Pendery is honoring the wishes of the two outgoing commissioners who just want a vote on the issue.

Rechtin went on to offer his counter proposal to the ban that includes requiring businesses that allow smoking to post signage similar to the surgeon generals warning on a pack of cigarettes.  He felt that personal responsibility has to enter the equation and that as residents we still have the decision to visit or not visit or work at those places that allow smoking.

Now the question becomes what will Brian Painter do?  Will Garrett and Painter raise and second the motion to get Rechtin's important third vote?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Highlands Football Moving On

The football team, looking for it's state leading 20th state title, won over Dixie (No. 16 overall and No. 5 in Division 5A) 42-28 tonight at David Cecil Memorial Stadium.

Highlands took their first lead heading into the 4th quarter, 28-21 after being down 21-14 at halftime. Quarterback Patrick Towles left during the 4th quarter due to an apparent injury.

The Birds will play away Johnson Central (No. 16 overall and No. 7 in 5A) next week.

I have to admit, I haven't been to many games since the Guidugli-Hamblen-Grover-Fennell era, but I did get to a few games this year. Between that, following their progress from Enquirer reporter, Ryan Ernst's twitter account and reading the analysis from the comments section on the Enquirer articles - I have made a line for the game against Johnson Central.

Now, obviously this isn't Newport during the 50s or anything - so we'll just do this for fun. After reading analysis from "BlueMagoo" on this article - I think I got this.
Dale Mueller has done a tremendous job with this small Highlands team but it will be extra tough at Johnson Central. I was at last years match-up at Highlands and Johnson Central was clearly larger & more physical than the Bird's but they couldn't deal with Collingsworths speed and last years Bird team was bigger & stronger than this years. Look for JC to try and grind it out on long drives and keep Highlands offense off the field. If Muller pulls it out down in the mountains they just might win state again with a team that looks (except the QB) like a freshman squad. If I had to bet the house I'm afraid I'd go with Johnson Central on this one. Highlands has just looked mortal at times this year.
Highlands playing away. Looking pretty mortal this year, according to BlueMagoo. Playing in a tough game at home vs. Dixie. And a starting QB in injury limbo.

Highlands (-6) at Johnson Central.

What say you Fort Thomas Matters readers?

Safety Alert - Insight Communications Going Door to Door

Yesterday my wife received visitors at our door indicating they were with Insight and were there to make an unscheduled visit to check our service.  As you may have guessed this raised some red flags with my wife who asked for credentials before letting them in our home.  Once in the house the visit seemed appropriate but it left us more than a little concerned.

I spoke with Insight this morning to verify that this was an appropriate visit and in fact it was.  This is in preparation for an upgrade of their cable services and is a legitimate visit.  The representative indicated that you will know this representative by the following characteristics:
  1. They will have a photo identification
  2. They will be wearing a red Insight shirt
  3. They may be driving their own vehicle, not an official insight truck
Ultimately be cautious and if something about the visitors makes you uncomfortable turn them away.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Smoking Ban Takes First Step

The draft of the smoke free ordinance was posted last night on the Kenton County website.  While it is technically a Kenton County ordinance this is the draft that will likely be used by the Campbell County Commission as to gather public input.

The various county commission meetings will be the first step in getting the ordinance passed.  It appears that Pendery and Drees are going to rush the ordinance through before the new commissioners take office in Campbell County.

To me this seems like a fairly big waste of time since the new commissioners will likely take up a repeal as soon as they take office after the first of the year.  I have asked the new commissioner Pete Garrett for his thoughts but so far no response.  I am not sure what procedural hurdles may be in the way of a repeal but unless it is extremely difficult to repeal then this feels like a waste of time.  Am I missing something here?

Regan Coomer of the Kenton County Connects blog has a good summary of what is covered in the ordinance and can be viewed in the link.

According to a recent Enquirer article, Ralph Drees will not press for the passage of the ordinance without the support of Campbell County but I wonder if Kenton County will be left holding the bag when the new Commissioners take over and repeal the ordinance.... I assume Kenton would follow their lead, although it they could be past the point of no return with no support for a repeal.

Should be an interesting couple months of Northern Kentucky politics.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Polling the Audience

Isn't it nice not to have to watch the Bengals today. Don't get me wrong, I love them, but how frustrating have they been this year? I guess they all can't be as good as Mueller and the Birds.

Not a whole lot going on in and around the city right now that hasn't already been discussed, but after having a few email suggestions and some via the comments section, Fort Thomas Matters wants to know from you:

If you could make any change to the city - ordinance wise - what would it be?

Let us know via posting a comment or emailing me ( or Darrin (

I'm going to head to the council meeting next Monday (11/15) to see what progress - if any - has been made on a suggestion I made to Don Martin a few weeks ago. I'd be happy to bring your suggestions to him as well.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Checking in with Cake Towne

Took a walk with my bride and dog up to Cake Towne today and they are open for business. The place looks great. Yes, that is a cut out of a cupcake in the drywall, as well as a little cafe seating area (below). Donna Kirst, one of the owners, was manning the counter.

Cake Towne had a soft opening on Election Day and she told me that they hope to capitalize on the Highlands off campus lunch crowd soon, offering pizza, subs and chili dogs. It looks as if their business plan is on the right track with what should work in Fort Thomas. A look at their mission statement explains it all:

A friendly, quaint neighborhood shop with a wide variety of snacks and sweets with a hometown atmosphere. A place that people want to go because, it's the place to go.

When talking with people around town, is seems as this is the type of business they want. A hometown shop, that adds character to the city, without bringing the traffic.

"In three months, we should have a better idea of our acceptance to town and what is working and what's not," Kirst said. "In three years we hopefully will be in high demand with the wedding and event cakes."

So you can see where the store fits into our community now and where they want to grow the business down the road. I just hope after the chocolate dipped pretzel and peanut butter and jelly cupcake we had today, I can fit into pants this weekend.

If that doesn't entice you enough to go visit them, wait until their gourmet pumpkin pies ($10 and change) hit the shelves. My in laws will think I'm the best baker around. Just hope they don't read this blog.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fort Thomas News - Week of November 1

Some random observations and mentions of Fort Thomas around the internet:

1. What did everyone think about mid-afternoon trick or treating?  In my opinion it just wasn't the same.  I enjoyed the fact that I could get the kids to bed at a reasonable time but trick or treating with the sun up just didn't feel right.
2. The recent strong storms that blew through during the last week in October was captured by a local resident on the CNN iReport and amazingly has over 12,000 views.  Not sure why so many people care about a seemingly benign storm that blew through our community.

3. Found a great blog devoted to Cincinnati area history and a good post related to the story of an attempted siege of Cincinnati during the Civil War and the role that Fort Thomas played in this battle.

4. One of the main purposes of this blog is to engage in a conversation about the issues in the community.  With that being said it has been extremely difficult the past couple weeks moderating the comments related to the county races.  I will deny comments that do nothing to advance the public discourse by using name calling or just regurgitating empty rhetoric.  In many cases I was shocked at the personal attacks that people feel free to post when they can hide behind the anonymity of the internet.

In general I am suffering from campaign fatigue.  I am glad I don't have to post anything about politics or races again for a while. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fort Thomas & Campbell County Results

Quick recap of the races this evening that impacts Fort Thomas:

1. Council is unchanged.  This is the right result - I have had my doubts about Jeremy Canter as a real candidate and despite my misgivings on Lisa Kelly she is a better option than Canter.

2. We have a new member on the school board - Gail Federle.  This is another member committed to trying to get a fairer share of state funds.

3. Dave Otto defeated after serving for over 20 years - shifting the balance among the commission.  A commission which will remain 3 members and not 8 justices.

4. The Commission shift could have an impact on a potential smoking ban.  We'll have to see how this plays out given Pendery's re-election

5. On a personal note, not only did my racquetball partner Steve Franzen win the county attorney race but my high school friend Jared Carpenter won his state senate seat in central Kentucky.

Tracking Our Local Races - so far

As of 10:00 PM, on Election Day. Only contested races. 40 of 66 precincts reporting:

US Senator
Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
Rand Paul - R 8,925 62%

Jack Conway - D 5,471 38%

US Rep, District 4
Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
Geoff Davis - R 9,645 67.1%

John Waltz - D 4,735 32.9%

State Representative
Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
Katie Kratz Stine - R 9,568 66.3%

Julie Smith-Morrow - D 4,868 33.7%

Judge Executive
Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
Steve Pendery - R 9,238 65.9%

Andrea Janovic - D 4,775 34.1%

County Attorney
Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
Steven J. Franzen - R 8,518 60.2%

James A. Daley - D 5,638 39.8%

Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
John D. Dunn Jr. - D 7,719 55.6%

Anthony John Rouse - R 6,165 44.4%

Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
Greg Buckler - D 7,101 51.6%

James T. "Tom" Sparks Jr. - R 6,659 48.4%

County Commissioner, 1st District
Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
Brian D. Painter - R 7,786 58.1%

Michael L. Schulkens - D 5,624 41.9%

County Commissioner, 2nd District
Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
Pete Garrett - R 7,557 54%

Dave Otto - D 6,429 46%

Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
Mark Schweitzer - R 9,434 75.1%

Rob Rummel - D 3,131 24.9%

Family Court Judge
Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
Richard A. Woeste 6,240 51.1%

Gayle Hoffman 5,978 48.9%

Justice of the Peace Vote:
Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
No 13,568 55.5%

Yes 10,879 44.5%

School Board:
Candidate/Issue Votes Percent
Bradley T. Fennell 3,481 26.1%
Gail Federle 3,397 25.5%
Scott W. Johnson 3,273 24.6%
Larry Holladay 3,179 23.8%

City Council:
Eric A. Haas 4,174 15.7%
Jill Steller 4,098 15.4%
Thomas R. Lampe 4,046 15.2%
Roger Peterman 3,985 15%
James A. Doepker 3,977 15%
Lisa C. Kelly 3,378 12.7%
Jeremy John Canter 2,940 11.1%