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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Despite Recent Closures, Optimism is Abound in Newport

Monmouth St. looking south. FTM file. 
The business closures have been high profile and far reaching in Newport over the last few months.

Dick's Last Resort at Newport on the Levee started the news abruptly on November 1. Then Arnie's on the Levee just across the street announced their closure.

Bourbon and Broad, and Birk's Bar were some of the latest bars to close on Monmouth St. and just this week, The River City News reported that longtime pastry stalwart, Bernhard's Bakery, had closed its doors forever on York Street.

So what gives?

Michael Cefarrati, owner of Bourbon and Broad, said that he believes the city didn't do enough to help his business grow.

"I truly bought into the whole 'Bring Monmouth Back' slogan and that's why we acquired the building next door," he told Fort Thomas Matters last month.

He said they had built a patio only to be told live music wasn't to be played outside.

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But Newport City Manager, Tom Fromme, disagreed with Cefarrati's analysis.

He said that Monmouth Street is a prime position to capitalize on adding businesses and residential with the addition of over 200 apartments on Fourth Street.

"Monmouth Street is open to a variety of businesses, that's what makes it a great place to visit," he said. "Bourbon and Broad had the right idea but I'm not sure it was implemented properly. We keep increasing the number of people living in the downtown area and that will attract some nice businesses to Monmouth." 

Some of the news trickling in is timing based. Liquor licenses, which are issued by the state, have hefty price tags and renew around the same time of the year in many cases on November 1. The price tag is often the tipping point which puts the business owner to a decision point on whether to renew the license or close the business.

Some of the closures are lease issues, where the landlord either has different plans for the building or cannot come to new rent terms with tenants.

Despite the recent issues, city and county leaders are bullish on Newport and on Monmouth Street.

Campbell County Economic Director, Seth Cutter, said that a key to success in economic development involved "place-making" and creating vibrant urban gathering spaces, which is something that is happening on Monmouth Street.

"In the city of Newport, many of us see the potential of the Monmouth Street corridor to serve this purpose even more than it does now," he said. "Despite some recent business closings, there are many folks that sense and can see the palpable excitement growing here."

Entrepreneur, Darrin Murriner, is one of those folks Cutter describes.

Murriner has ownership stake in two buildings on Monmouth Street at 842 and 906. Borderlands (842 Monmouth) is a co-working space and is an example of the urban gathering space that Cutter describes. The building at 906 is currently leased by St. Vincent De Paul and will eventually house up to ten employees for a young and growing company.  He believes that the prospects for Newport and Monmouth Street are strong, and his invested in that block because of the changing dynamic away from the bar scene.

"There has been a glut of bars along that stretch of Monmouth and at the Levee for that matter, and you can only rely on weekend business to keep you afloat for so long," he said.

"The reality is that Monmouth is changing dramatically. The pawn shops and check cashing places are gone or on the way out and being replaced by creative businesses."

A quick look at the corner of 9th and Monmouth Streets seem to indicate the shift Murriner references. There are private investments flooding into that block including an expansion of Carabello Coffee, Industry, an Aveda Salon, Drive Media House and Powerhouse, in addition to what Murriner has in store for the St. Vincent De Paul building. Newly opened Wooden Cask Brewery is just around the corner on York.
9th and Monmouth Streets. FTM file. 

"Even Over-The-Rhine would be happy with that collection of businesses," said Murriner.

Murriner and Cutter both agree that private investment spurred by community organizations are the key to the growth in the urban core.

Newport works with Campbell County, the Catalytic Fund, and Southbank Partners to develop a long-term strategy for growth that incorporates the community's vision for this corridor.

"We look at the realities of the target markets and real estate fundamentals," said Cutter. "By fusing all these elements, the hope is that a coordinated approach will inspire the confidence of existing businesses, as well as new companies and individuals looking to invest," said Cutter.


  1. I agree with the glut of bars, there is too much competition on that area. Good to see some other venues spring up.

  2. I guarantee Bitter's is next to follow. I think everyone but the owners of these establishments knew they were going to close when they announced their opening. I don't think anyone with any business sense or bar experience believed Dick's Last Resort, Birk's, or Bourbon and Broad would make it. Arnie's had some potential, about 8 years ago. How and why did they hold out this long to close up shop? Monmouth and Newport have great potential, but not with these concepts, lack of marketing, and poor management decisions.