James “Eck” Broughton saw his life go up in flames in an arson fire in downtown Frankfort, Ky., a year ago.
Now he said he’s close to reopening his business, the Downtown Bar, but not after a long and expensive struggle that drained his savings.
“It’s been a bad year,” he said.
The fire set on March 4 destroyed Broughton’s business along with Tink’s Bar-B-Q and severely damaged Serafini restaurant, the Brick Alley nightclub and several apartments. The damages were estimated at $1.4 million.
Now Broughton, 76, is hoping his customers return when he reopens on March 15.
He said he lost around $75,000 and had not insured the business when it was destroyed.
“It got so high I couldn’t afford it,” he said. “I’ll have to work here until I drop dead.”
Stephen Gregory Malcolm, of Lexington pleaded guilty in October to a federal charge of intentionally setting the fire. Malcolm, 34, faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Monday.
Broughton said he had hoped to have more help from the city to get the bar back on its feet.
“The city of Frankfort hasn’t done anything, yet they want business downtown. They just want you to pay taxes,” he complained.
Frankfort Mayor Bill May said he was involved in numerous discussions with then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher, his staff and other state agencies about getting help for the damaged businesses.
“Unfortunately, there was nothing anyone could find to help Mr. Broughton, a business owner who did not have insurance,” May said.
Broughton leases the first floor of the building from John and Roy Gray, brothers who purchased the building that housed Tink’s Bar-B-Q. They own most of the burned buildings along St. Clair Street.
The Serafini Bourbon Room, on the other side of the Downtown Bar, isn’t yet ready to be reopened.
“We’re trying to recreate the storefront as it was in 1871,” Gray said.
The Brick Alley reopened months ago.
John Gray said the past year has gone by fast.
“I like fixing up old buildings,” he said. “Most of the buildings stood here for 137 years before the fire. And I hope with the things we’re doing now, they will stand for at least another 137.”
Information from: The State Journal
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