Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sen. Hutchinson, partners have plan for private club in Packet House

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 6:15 PM

click to enlarge PACKET HOUSE: Investors envision it as private club. - ARKANSAS BUSINESS
  • Arkansas Business
  • PACKET HOUSE: Investors envision it as private club.

Interesting item on the agenda of the Little Rock Planning Commission Thursday — a proposal to convert the currently vacant Packet House into a private club for business people.

The developer is Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson. He's joined in an LLC with two friends who are investment bankers, Mark Camp and Rod Damon.

They want to make the building, most recently a restaurant, into the 1836 Club, a place for business people to meet, eat, drink and smoke cigars in a humidor room. Most major cities have such private clubs. The club also would be used as an events center for catered events. When the proposal was reviewed by the subdivision committee, it was noted the facility would be similar to the Little Rock Club atop Regions Bank.

Hutchinson and partners have a deal pending to buy the property for $1.3 million from the previous owners, who did a major renovation for a restaurant that didn't work out.

Here's the full application before the Planning Commission. The staff has recommended the change to a private club from restaurant approval. Dillard's, which has headquarters next door on Cantrell Road, wrote a letter expressing concerns about traffic and potential for members to use their parking lot, but Hutrchinson said he didn't expect the company to actively oppose the application. He said the operation would likely have less traffic than a commercial restaurant, with essentially the same operation.

Hutchinson said the club would be limited to 300 members. It would include a restaurant, serving dinner only and special events. The group is seeking an established restaurateur to operate the dining facility independently. The club operators would meet expenses from membership fees ($250 a month for individuals and $1,000 for corporations), the bar operation and events.

Hutchinson was ready for my question about the nexus of politics and entertainment, with the Capitol dome visible from the restaurant. He's been talking to Graham Sloan, director of the state Ethics Commission, about the knotty issue of entertaining legislators. Actually, it's not so knotty. They can't be wined and dine by lobbyists. The larger question is whether they can pay their own tabs as a guest without still being seen as having been conferred a benefit of admission to a private club. That could mean an additional charge. The matter is up in the air for now.

The club also could be a place for "scheduled events," the end-run around the new ethics law by which special interest may entertain legislators if all members of a committee or the legislative chambers are invited to an event. Lobbies have already used catering venues for such events in the past.

Hutchinson envisions a venue that pays tribute to the building's past as a fixture on Carpetbagger Row, once a larger group of homes built by Little Rock's reconstruction-era leaders. They hope to hang a portrait of Alexander McDonald, the carpetbagger who built the house in 1869.

Hutchinson said a deal had been struck to purchase the property for $1.3 million, but it is contingent on approval of all the relevant agencies. Planning Commission decisions are reviewed  by the City Board. The club also will need a private club permit from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Hutchinson said the potential buyers have no objections to the city's long-standing desire to continue the River Trial bike path along the bluff of the river behind the Packet House and behind Dillard headquarters. Dillard's objects to having the path behind its buildings, but might be amenable to a broader bike path along Cantrell Road in front of its building.

UPDATE: On Thursday the Planning Commission approved the plan. 

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Speaking of...

Comments (30)

Showing 1-30 of 30

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-30 of 30

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Friday's open line

    The daily video and an open line.
    • Mar 24, 2017
  • White flag waved on Trumpcare

    House Republicans pulled down the Trumpcare legislation this afternoon and walked out, depriving Democrats of some fun in pointing out all the anti-woman, anti-poor, pro-rich aspects of a bill too generous for hardcare Republicans and too mean for the few remaining moderates.
    • Mar 24, 2017
  • Jones Bar-B-Q of Marianna has a related outpost in Jacksonville

    The legendary Jones Bar-B-Q Diner of Marianna is about to have a kissing cousin — supposedly with the same key recipes — in Jacksonville.
    • Mar 24, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Matt Campbell files ethics complaint against Dennis Milligan

    Little Rock attorney and blogger Matt Campbell, whose knack for deep research brought down Mark Darr, Mike Maggio and Dexter Suggs, now has his sights trained on another worthy target. Today, he filed a 113-page ethics complaint against state Treasurer Dennis Milligan that includes 14 separate allegations.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • AHTD asks Metroplan to lift six-lane freeway cap

    The board of directors of Metroplan has informed the state highway department that it cannot act on the highway department's June 17 request to lift its six-lane freeway cap at the board's June 29 meeting. Consideration of the request should take four months, Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher wrote June 22 to highway department Director Scott Bennett.
    • Jun 23, 2016
  • Rutledge refuses open records of fired trooper who now leads ABC enforcement

    Attorney General Leslie Rutledge yesterday refused to allow release of records that explain the 2000 firing of Boyce Hamlet as a state trooper.
    • Sep 1, 2015

Most Shared

Visit Arkansas

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Arkansas is the perfect place to try out this new health trend. Read all about the what, why, where and how here.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments



© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation