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Newlyweds preparing to open new business in downtown Elizabethton

John Thompson • Jan 15, 2019 at 8:19 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Like many young newlyweds, Michael Howell and Cheri Tinney have some plans to start a business and put down some solid roots in the community they have chosen to call home. The difference is that Michael and Cheri should be opening the doors on their new business sometime in March.

Their business will be a new one for Elizabethton: a pub bar, a place that specializes in selling craft beers made in small quantities of 15,000 barrels a year or less. All of the business will be in selling beer. Food offerings will be left to others, such as food trucks or nearby restaurants. The couple may limit their own food supplied to customers to free helpings of free popcorn.

The concept is a new one for Elizabethton, so new that it required a change in the city ordinance to allow it. That amendment was debated by City Council in two sessions.

Those sessions turned into emotional meetings, with a group of people, including church pastors and some community leaders who attended the meetings to oppose the amendment and to warn against the damage that alcohol causes to society.

There was also another group that rallied behind Michael and Cheri, some saying the couple offered fresh ideas for downtown, while others praised the couples’ character. Cheri is well knowm as a leader of the Downtown Farmers Market and has worked to provide quality, fresh-picked, locally grown food. Cheri said she will maintain the same high standards of quality and commitment to local sources in her pub bar.

After the council voted 5-1 in December to approve the ordinance changes that allow pub bars, Cheri and Michael began in earnest to get their new business ready to open in March.

The have selected portion of a building located at 635 E. Elk Ave to establish their new business. It is the last business on the northeast side of downtown Elizabethton before crossing the Elk Avenue Bridge.

One advantage is that there is a small parking space right next to the location, and spillover parking in another small parking lot across the street from nearby North Riverside Drive. One other possible advantage is that an established local barbecue restaurant may decide to move in next door, in what was formerly Hooks Restaurant. That would be a boon, since the prospective business does not sell beer, so the customers of the restaurant may be encouraged to try out some of the craft beers. None of that has yet been finalized, however.

Michael and Cheri’s part of the property used to be a small commercial office business. It has never been a restaurant or bar, so a lot of work will need to be done to get it ready. That is what Cheri and Michael are currently doing, along with a local contractor who is giving them advice and an experienced hand at building renovations.

“We are just about done with the demolition part and starting with the construction part,” Michael said.

The couple is also renovating themselves into business people. They have just enrolled in CO.STARTERS in Johnson City, a nine-week course sponsored by the Johnson City Development Authority to equip “aspiring entrepreneurs with the insights, relationships and tools needed to to turn ideas into acton, and turn a passion into a sustainable and thriving endeavor.”

Getting a former commercial office into a pub bar and enrolling in an entrepreneurship class sounds like a lot, but Cheri and Michael have proven during the recent City Council meeting that they not only have a lot of ambition and drive, they also have a strong core of supporters who have also caught their dream and are helping to make sure that it comes true for these newlyweds.

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