NASHVILLE -- Tennessee's House and Senate have approved a state budget that includes continued operations for the restaurant at Henry Horton State Park.
Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett announced the development at about 3:15 p.m. Friday, reporting on a call he'd just received from state Rep. Eddie Bass.
Liggett, Bass and state Sen. Bill Ketron have for months been discussing the value of the restaurant to the Inn at the state park just south of Chapel Hill. The restaurant has been costing the state much more than the revenue and there was a prospect of the state renting the restaurant to a private business that would operate that part of the park. It employs 13 people.
Jim Fyke, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, visited the park in April and told Liggett, Ketron, County Commissioner Tony White and other area leaders that the restaurant was losing too much money to justify keeping it open.
White made an appeal to the public, saying that if the restaurant is to remain open, it must have customers.
Reached by cell phone just before the House went back into session on Friday afternoon, Bass reported, "The state budget is passed. It's there. The restaurant is there. Barring an unforeseen blowup in the next several hours, it's all said and done."
While the budget bill does not have the governor's signature, the state's spending plan would appear to be ready for the formal process of creating a document for the governor's signature and having a budget document that could be posted on the Internet, according to Bass.
Speaking more directly to the status of the restaurant funding, Bass said, "We put this money in the appropriations bill on the House side and it was the budgeted and we presented it to the Senate. They approved it last night. We just voted on it.
"Long story short, it's in the budget for another year," Bass said.
"That was our big concern," the state representative said, indicating that people have been able to show that the restaurant is "doing much better" and there's been a successful effort to "help people realize it's a big part of the park."
The Inn at Henry Horton State Park was seen as jeopardized if the restaurant was closed. It could have been another domino to fall in a downward economic spiral, according to officials' economic analysis of the restaurant's situation.
Read more about the restaurant at Henry Horton State Park in the Wednesday, June 9 edition of the Marshall County Tribune on sale at fine stores and newspaper racks all across the county that morning.