Officials in Lebanon and Virginia offer $50,000 to someone who brings a restaurant to downtown

LEBANON, Va. (WJHL) — If you’ve ever wanted to open a restaurant but lacked the funds to do so, a city in southwest Virginia offers the perfect opportunity for area entrepreneurs.

The city of Lebanon, Virginia is offering a $50,000 downtown restaurant incentive grant.

The one-time grant will come from the city’s general fund and will last for two years. Municipal authorities are accepting applications until February 10.

In order to be selected for the grant, the applicant must present plans for a restaurant concept that would be nestled in the heart of downtown and open six days a week with consistent hours.

While city officials have been discussing the grant possibility since late November, it wasn’t until the last week of January that they announced the incentive to the public.

While $50,000 is a pretty big reward, the initial announcement came in a small package as an ad in the local newspaper’s classifieds section.

On Monday, News Channel 11 spoke with Lebanon City Manager Drew Shortt, who said there were already a few candidates.

Shortt said the city is doing its best to revitalize downtown and there are currently many visible works reflecting their efforts.

Crews can be seen on Main Street carrying out construction work to create additional parking. The city is also working to update building facades and renovate the old Russell Theatre.

With all this work going on, Mr Shortt said now was the perfect time to start thinking about a flagship company that would help drive economic development; they want this anchor to be a restaurant with local connections, not chains.

He said the opportunities a business like this would bring are endless. “Just park and walk around, catch a show, grab a bite to eat, maybe run to the brewery, coffee shop or milkshake bar. We have everything downtown, we just think the restaurant would be the last piece,” Shortt said.

Shortt said they’ve been saving up for an opportunity like this. “It’s kind of an investment at the same time because if we’re successful it will create jobs in the community, keep people in the community, so it would mean economic growth on our side,” he said. .

So far, there have been a few candidates, according to Shortt. One of the candidates is Matthew Lindamood whose group recently purchased the Old Mill property.

Lindamood said the grant offered by the city shows their dedication to growth. He said he knew the grant was being considered as a possibility when he decided to buy the Old Mill property – and it acted as an added incentive, however, he said he would have done so with or without the subsidy.

Lindamood said the property has historical value and he hopes to revitalize it and restore it to its former glory. If he wins the grant, he said his company will cover the renovation costs and the grant will be used to purchase equipment and other costs associated with starting a restaurant and day-to-day operations.

“It would be nice to have an area where people can go out and walk to multiple restaurants and businesses and kind of replicate what Bristol did a few decades ago,” Lindamood said.

Not only would these funds help revive the downtown economy, but they will have a direct impact on these existing businesses.

“Just having people here, especially in the evenings, that seems to be when a lot of business is slowest just because people are running here with sports and going to the Tri-Cities to eat, that kind of thing… so to be able to keep these people here would be amazing,” said Andrew Mays, co-owner of Southern Charm Decor.

Mays and his wife opened Southern Charm Decor in August 2021, while new to the scene in downtown Lebanon, they are locals who know the potential of the area.

“This particular town has the potential with its historical value to develop into something like an Abingdon, and that would be amazing for this area,” Mays said.

He said the amount of funds offered is an opportunity not to be missed. “Any time you can get these grants to help you, it definitely moves you in the right direction. This kind of help is really needed by any business,” he said.

Applications will be accepted until February 10. The board will evaluate the applications and decide who will win the grant at its February 14 meeting.

Who can apply is not limited to residents of Lebanon. Shortt said applications can come from the surrounding area, but the restaurant must come to downtown Lebanon.

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