Two county businesswoman are asking to lease the former Inverness train station just outside Liberty Park — the only application after a long search for renters by the city which wants to put the building to use.
Vickie Humphrey, of Inverness, and Caroline Jenkins, of Lecanto, submitted a 30-page business plan to the city council during its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.
In a 4-0 vote, the council gave City Manager Eric Williams approval to start negotiating with the two women about leasing the 3,600-square-foot wooden building.
In the proposal for “The Train Station: A Unique Gathering Place,” the two women laid out a plan describing how they want to turn the building into a café and game room.
The plan is to offer pizza, ice cream, drinks, beer and wine, and a gaming room which would include Duckpin Bowling (similar to traditional bowling but with shorter lanes, pins and balls), Jenga, tabletop shuffleboards, and with large-screen televisions.
The two also want to offer indoor and outdoor seating for clientele.
Williams said that in most cases there would be several applicants and the council would pick the one that best reflected the city’s hopes for the train station. But in this case, despite hundreds of letters sent to prospective businesses, Williams said there was little interest.
“It’s very clear what the market is able to bear,” Williams told the council.
The next step is to allow staff to hammer out the details of the lease and specifics that the city would approve of for the building.
“Nothing in there is written in stone,” Williams said of the business plan.
Councilman Ken Hinkle said that while he was in favor of the project he wasn’t supporting alcohol being served outside in a proposed outdoor seating area by the building.
Williams asked about whether Hinkle would support outdoor consumption on special occasions and he replied he would.
Councilwoman Jacquie Hepfer agreed and said she had concerns about people consuming alcohol outdoors so close to the park.
Councilman Cabot McBride said he supported the idea of the business.
“I think your idea would really make the (business) unique,” he said, describing it as a “good thing for our community.”
Mayor Bob Plaisted said the city had little choice but to allow alcohol if the train station was to become a restaurant.
“That’s the nature of restaurants,” he said.
Williams said this is just the beginning stages.
“Nothing is going to be done without council approval,” he said.
*Also in council business, the city council agreed to allow Williams to begin preliminary discussions with a hotel chain about possibly buying about six acres that make up most of Way Side Park off State Road 44.
Williams said the discussions were preliminary and the city would keep the parking that’s used by boaters using the boat ramp across State Road 44. The ramp serves Big Lake Henderson.
The park is wooded and undeveloped.
Williams would not name the hotel chain that was expressing interest but that it had hotels across the country.
The council told Williams to continue discussions and report back.
*Also in council business, Williams reported plans for the annual Cooter Festival were progressing for Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. The festival this year is returning to Liberty Park and the Depot District.