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Cock of the Walk restaurant lease extended a month

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez is allowing the Cock of the Walk restaurant to stay open at the city-owned former railroad depot an extra month.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted last week to extend the restaurant’s lease until Nov. 1. The city had previously notified the business that it needed to be out of the building by Oct. 1.

The city is renovating the depot as part of a project to relocate the Natchez Farmers Market to the bluff and develop the depot into office and meeting space and a product development facility.

The board unanimously voted to extend the lease. Prior to that vote, Mayor Butch Brown broke a 3-3 tie to extend the lease only if Cock of the Walk paid back rent it owes the city.

City Clerk Donnie Holloway said the restaurant owes the city six months rent. Cock of the Walk’s rent is a little less than $650 a month, meaning they would owe the city nearly $3,900.

Brown voted against the motion saying he was confident the city could collect the rent.

City Attorney Hyde Carby said Cock of the Walk requested a lease extension in order to capitalize on business that will be brought in by Fall Pilgrimage, which begins next week, and the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, which is Oct. 18-20.

Cock of the Walk owner Patricia Clark said she is in the process of securing a new location for the restaurant, which she said will remain in Natchez. Clark said she is close to having a new location secured, but declined to give the location.

The building’s other tenant, The Old South Trading Post, relocated to 714 Franklin St. last month.

Once Cock of the Walk has moved out of the building, the city will begin the necessary work to renovate the building.

The city extended the lease provided that Cock of the Walk allow workers access to the restaurant if preliminary renovation work needs to be done prior to Nov. 1.

The city is partnering with Alcorn State and Mississippi State universities to renovate the depot and relocate the farmers market to the bluff.

Preliminary plans include constructing an open-air pavilion for the Alcorn State extension program’s farmers market and turning the depot into a public product development facility with a demonstration kitchen.

Alcorn’s School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Science Dean Barry Bequette said the estimated cost for Alcorn’s portion of the project is $1.2 million. He said the university has $500,000 committed to the project and is hoping to obtain more funding in lieu of scaling down the plans for the farmers market.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation has provided $500,000 for the project. The funding will require a 20-percent cost match from the city.

MDOT officials have said the department will also give the city $250,000 in 2014 for the project.

The depot project will also connect to the Natchez Trails Project, the city’s ongoing project that has added walking trails and sidewalks downtown, because the depot will serve as a visitor reception center for the Trails, which will be integrated into the redevelopment of the area.

The depot’s space would have a demonstration kitchen that could be used for educational or commercial purposes. The depot would also house public restrooms, meeting and possible office and classroom space.

Mississippi State and Alcorn State officials have said they are hoping to house joint educational opportunities in the depot, from distance learning to hands-on continuing education courses.

Officials have also said the demonstration kitchen could be rented for product development purposes, educational and entrepreneurial training.