Tisdale questions city plans

Published 12:13 am Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Before approving contracts with Big Mike’s and Clark Theatres Tuesday night, the city council held a public meeting in which it took questions that got somewhat heated.

Blaine Wilson asked if the same company would manage the theater and how the city can guarantee it will be kept in better shape.

Mayor Earl Johnson said there is “very strong language” in the contract that gives the city the authority to make sure it is kept clean and operated in a professional manner.

Councilman Ralph Wells said, “Everybody who’s been here a while understands that question. We have addressed issues with the owners at length, from dress codes to manners, to service.

“Our expectations are written down and agreed to by the owners,” Wells said. “We have set out criteria with high standards.”

John Tisdale said he has sent several inquiries to the city attorney asking for documents related to the two contracts. Specifically, on Tuesday he asked for a financial analysis of the decision to lease the Andala building as a restaurant, and what kind of return on investment the city expects.

The mayor replied that a number of rough drafts had been used, and that the final agreements with the two companies were provided to Tisdale on Friday.

“There are two major considerations for us as far as the council is concerned,” Johnson said. “We are not in the business of making a profit, we are in the business of rebuilding our city, particularly in downtown area.”

The first interest was in bringing something new to the community.

“There is not a restaurant in Andalusia comparable to Big Mike’s,” Johnson said. “We certainly have other fine restaurants here. We did talk to the mayor of Thomasville and asked about Big Mike’s.

“He said, ‘Earl, if you can get Big Mike’s to Andalusia, do it. When they came to Thomasville, revenue in every other restaurant went up.’ ”

In its Livingston and Thomasville locations, the restaurant opens Wednesday through Saturday nights, and draws customers from a five-county area.

Tisdale countered, “If all we wanted to do was get them to Andalusia, why didn’t you let me finish my negotiations with them?”

Tisdale says he has been working with the owners of Big Mike’s since February of 2015, and has text messages about the project from that time.

“I’ve been there and know it’s a good restaurant. I have a real question: Why does it make financial sense for government to go in competition with a private developer?”