Admiral Chester Nimitz, Denver Peacock, Gators, Hank Birch, Inland Maritime Museum, Little Rock Free Press, Mayor Pat Hays, motorcycles, North Little Rock, Patrick Kelly, Pearl Harbor, The Spirit, tugboat, USS Hoga, USS Razorback
Gators May Sink in Wake of Maritime Museum
As the 61-year-old USS Razorback travels to its future home on the north shore of the Arkansas River, a North Little Rock business owner wonders what will become of the restaurant he has owned for nearly four years on the riverfront.
Gators Bar-ge and Grill owner Patrick Kelly, 45, first purchased the business on Sept. 1, 2000, after previously working as an upholster for Falcon Jet. With help from his wife Kimmra, Kelly invested $209,000 worth of stocks and IRAs to clean up the barge.
“When I first came in, I knew it was going to be a gamble,” Kelly said. “This place has been through an endless number of owners who never made it because they never worked it. (The boat) was run-down, with every room painted in different colors. It was a piece of junk. We painted the boat on the inside, and the owner painted it on the outside. We want to show the city and the people that we want to be an attraction, an asset, rather than a liability. We’ve changed the appearance 100 percent to say we’re trying.”
However, Kelly did not foresee working on a month-to-month lease. While Gators once had a long-term lease, Kelly said North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays said it expired once barge-owner Hank Birch sold the expedition paddle boat, The Spirit.
“I’m beating a dead horse,” Kelly said. “(Mayor Hays) says this chunk of land is too valuable to lock up with long-term rent. I did some research from Missouri to Louisiana – really any federally-regulated waters – the cities that brought in an establishment like mine look at it as an asset. They don’t even pay any darn rent.” Continue reading