Riddle discusses ‘boutique hotel’ and distillery project
If Alex Riddle and a group of investors have their way, the Community Trust Bank building in downtown Versailles will one day house a “boutique” hotel, micro-distillery and leased restaurant. “We’re putting together all the funding structures and stuff right now,” Riddle said. “We’ve kind of been scared off by our legal counsel about talking too terribly much about the project, because we do have some state grants and tax incentives and stuff that we’re working on.” Riddle said there are presently about 10 investors, most of them Lexington-based, and the group, Rick & Still, LLC, has a goal of attracting 15 more to “get local buy-in.” Asked to define a “boutique hotel,” Riddle said, “I think, technically, it just means small and unique, so not branded, not a Hampton Inn. The goal would be … a high-end horse/bourbon-themed, unique, small hotel experience.” Part of the space in the building at 101 North Main Street would feature a leased restaurant, he said. Riddle said the group is working with bank officials on the timeline for the building purchase. “Goal-wise, from the groups that we’ve talked to and from the tax credits and the grants that have been applied for, we want to be opening the doors sometime in 2021, but we’d be okay with pushing it to 2022,” he said. The Woodford Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Versailles City Council have signed on to a plan to apply for a Community Development Block Grant (CGDB) to purchase $300,000 in distillery equipment for the project. A public hearing on the matter was held Nov. 19. The money would be repaid within 30 to 90 days by the state Department of Local Government using federal CDBG funds, according to EDA Chair John Soper. Revenue from the operation would be used to open a revolving fund the EDA would employ to recruit other businesses to Versailles, Soper said. At least 15 jobs would be created, and the CDBG grant requires that more than half of which must be filled by employees with a low to moderate income, though they wouldn’t have to be Woodford County residents, Soper said. The entire operation, including the purchase price of the building and money needed to convert it, will cost $4.6 million, according to Soper. Riddle didn’t discuss the cost, but acknowledged that much of it will involve renovations. “ … That’s the big sticking point as far as timeline and cost,” he said. Riddle said Versailles can support a second hotel and that he doesn’t see it as competing with the Holiday Inn Express and Suites. Asked about parking, Riddle called that the million-dollar question. “We’re in the early stages, but I think we have some good ideas and we’re pursuing a couple of different lease arrangements on the parking lot,” he said. Riddle is a part-owner of the Amsden Building and his wife owns and operates the Amsden Coffee Club and the Gathered Mercantile shop. He’s also a part-owner in various enterprises on the other side of Court Street and The Galerie. Asked whether he’s becoming known as “Mr. Court Street,” Riddle laughed, saying, “I’d rather avoid that moniker. We have a lot of really good partners and we’ve just kind of been the local people that have kind of helped put the deals together. Jordan and Jessica Kite are … the vast majority owners and operators” of many of those businesses, he said. Community Trust Bank has another branch in the Woodford Plaza. Bank market president Billie Dollins said she couldn’t say whether, if the sale goes through, the bank will maintain two branches in the city.