Kerr-Tar to assist through rural grant

Jan. 14, 2014 @ 09:00 PM

MIDDLEBURG — The Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments and Middleburg officials are working together with the hopes of reopening a Middleburg landmark.

The former Middleburg Steak House was slated to reopen in October, but an outdated water and septic system in the building has presented a roadblock for the town, which owns the facility.

Diane Cox, Kerr-Tar executive director, said her organization is finalizing a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise Grant that would fund an upgrade to the water and septic system.

“It was a booming business for the little town of Middleburg,” Cox said. “We hope to move forward with the application and have someone renting that space.”

The RBEG program is a federal grant program for rural projects that fund and facilitate the development of small and emerging rural businesses. Cox said her organization will apply for a grant of about $75,000.

Wallace Vaughan, a supervisor at Granville-Vance District Health Department, said the restaurant was using a pump and haul system before it closed in January 2012.

He said this method is typically used in emergency situations when a septic system fails. It involves pumping the contents of the septic tank into a truck, which then hauls the waste to a disposal facility.

Vaughan said the owners will need to upgrade to an onsite sub-surface system in order to receive permitting from the health department.

“It will be a fairly big and complex system because of the amount of waste generated by this type of restaurant,” Vaughan said. “I think everybody wants to see the facility operating again as something. It’s unfortunate that things unfolded the way they did. The health department wants to do anything we can to make it happen but we are limited with the laws and regulations that we need to follow.”

Lisa and Bennie Blackwell were hoping to open a new steak house in the building, but those plans are on hold until the water and septic system issues are handled.

“That is basically what we are waiting on, getting the septic system fixed,” Bennie Blackwell said. “Nothing can happen until they fix the problem.”

Middleburg Councilman Gary Plummer said Middleburg officials only became aware of the issues after the restaurant closed.

“When we tried to get a new person in there, we found out they were operating under a pump and haul system and it wasn’t allowed to continue that way,” Plummer said.

The former Middleburg Steak House building was constructed as a community house in 1934 as part of the Civil Work Administration, a program established by the New Deal during the Great Depression under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Tommy Greenway and his father, Irvin, started the Middleburg Steak House in 1976. Tommy and his daughter, Jody Pernell, opened the restaurant Greenways on Garnett Street in downtown Henderson in early 2012 after leaving their longtime ownership of Middleburg Steak House.

Plummer said he is looking forward to a new business because it could provide jobs for many unemployed and underemployed residents.

The grant application says a new restaurant would bring 25-30 full or part-time jobs to the area.

“That is the main thing: creating jobs,” Plummer said.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.