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Grant for Beneke’s cafe withdrawn

Staff writer

Edwards Café owner Mike Beneke hasn’t decided what to do with his restaurant. He may sell it. He may lease it. He may even tear it down. But he won’t get a $10,000 grant promised to him in September because he hasn’t reopened it.

The city of Marion rescinded the grant Monday. The money will be awarded in a second round of community development block grants.

Beneke can apply again — if he reopens Edwards first.

“It’s up in the air,” Beneke said.

When the grant was announced by the city of Marion, Beneke was told that if he did not reopen Edwards — which already had closed — he would have to repay the money.

He has said he hopes to be open by late November, in time for Marion’s Holly Jolly Christmas celebration.

But he also has noted that a key employee has been unable to work because of medical problems.

And he has, among other things, applied to the city for permission to demolish the building.

Beneke said city economic development director Randy Collett had asked earlier whether he’d be willing to lease the building to a different restaurant owner. Beneke answered that he might sell or lease it.

After city administrator Roger Holter told him he would have to give the council “a better understanding of what and how the grant funding will be utilized,” a sign is now on the building: “Future home of Holter Collett memorial vacant lot.” A scrolling electronic sign reads, “For sale.”

The same day Holter told him he needed to talk to the council, Beneke applied for a permit to demolish the building.

Beneke showed up at Monday’s city council meeting but sat in a room adjoining the meeting room.

Mayor David Mayfield asked Beneke to enter the room and speak into a microphone. Beneke came to the doorway instead and told the council he was sick and would not come in.

Beneke stepped to the doorway and told councilman he had diarrhea.

“I’m out here,” Beneke said.

Beneke left the building before councilmen finished their discussion.

Beneke said he hadn’t seen a request that he discuss the matter with the council coming.

He has now consulted a lawyer about the grant.

He said Holter asked him whether he was going to spend the money on a new truck.

“I am fully aware that if I don’t reopen, I have to give it back,” Beneke said. “But if I do reopen, we’re going to need that money to reopen.”

He said Holter told him the city would “have to hound him” to get that money back.

Beneke, who earlier said he’d lost $50,000 on the café, questioned how a new business nearby, 56 Express, had qualified for a $15,000 grant from the county.

Last modified Nov. 5, 2020

 

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