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Mystic Grill plans move forward
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Creating the real Mystic Grill restaurant — named after the popular restaurant from the TV series “The Vampire Diaries” — won’t be cheap at a cost of $2.27 million, but the owners are hoping to get a low-interest loan from the state to cover at least a fraction of the cost.

The long, inactive Covington Downtown Development Authority met for the first time in years Wednesday to offer support for the project by signing off on an initial project assessment — the first step in seeking a low-interest state loan for up to $250,000.

The restaurant, located on the square in the historic C.S. Thompson Building — named after the man who had the building erected in 1906 — is still on schedule to be completed by late summer, according to co-owner Angi Beszborn.

The restaurant is being located there because the building’s façade already plays the role of the restaurant in “The Vampire Diaries,” and the owners are hoping to attract the tens of thousands of tourists flock to Covington because of the show’s filming presence.

Local architect Ron Dimery is handling the design, while local contractor Adam Wilson will handle the renovation along with another local, Steve Smallwood.

Beszborn said the ownership team — which consists of Beszborn’s husband John and Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston and wife Kelley — wanted to hire as many locals as possible.

According to the project assessment that will be submitted to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the project will cost $2.27 million, including $1.38 million for rehabilitating the historic building, $475,000 for property acquisition, $400,000 for furniture, equipment and furnishings, and $18,500 for the design.

The owners are seeking a Downtown Development Revolving Loan Fund.

The downtown authority approved the assessment, which was also approved by the Covington City Council.
Because the mayor is involved, council members expressly stated they weren’t pressured to support the project.
Members of the authority include attorney Bob Stansfield, Councilwoman Janet Goodman, Rob Fowler, Deloris Smith and Arvin Spell, as well as Britt Smith and Larry Sullivan, who were not in attendance Wednesday.

Main Street Covington director Josephine Kelly said the state will review the assessment and, if everything checks out, request a larger application later.

She said the project “absolutely aligns” with Main Street’s goals for improving the downtown.

If the $250,000 Revolving Loan is approved, the project also will be eligible for another $250,000 loan from the Georgia Cities Foundation, Kelly said, noting the same process was used to rehabilitate the Lula Building on the square on Church Street across from Scoops.

The downtown authority merely acts as the conduit for funding, Stansfield said, and the money would go directly to the restaurant owners.

According to the assessment, the project will be paid for with a $1.91 million loan from Newton Federal Bank, with the state loan replacing part of that loan, as well as $338,250 in owner equity.

The design services are being funded by the owners.

The owner of the building is technically 2x4 Holdings, LLC, while the restaurant will be operated by Mystic Grill, LLC.

Both companies are jointly owned by the Beszborns and Johnstons.

The building plans are currently being reviewed by the Covington Planning Department, and construction is expected to begin later this month, according to the assessment.

The restaurant is expected to seat around 150 and employ 80 workers.

Beszborn said the restaurant is being designed to model the one in “The Vampire Diaries,” including having a bar on one side.

However, the building will have a few extras, including rooftop dining and a basement gift shop stocked with “Vampire Diaries” souvenirs.

Much of the building’s architectural history, including its front entrance columns, has been lost, but Beszborn said there are plans to restore the original, larger windows and other original aspects if possible.

She said the owners are following the law and doing what they can to protect the integrity of the building.

“The four of us really have Covington in our hearts; we love Covington,” Beszborn said, acknowledging the restaurant is a risky investment. “I love it today (after returning from Houston) more than I ever have.”