A USI alumnus plans to open a new Franklin Street bar before Fall Festival festivities kick off.
Britt Wilson, who graduated from USI in 2002 with a degree in public relations, took over Ken’s Out Arounds Tavern 12 years ago after he spent several years as a bartender at the bar on Claremont Avenue
Wilson’s said his new bar, Franklin Street Tavern, will bring a unique experience to the street.
“There’s going to be a patio out back. There’s another building back there — it’s called a carriage house — and we’re putting a bar in that as well,” he said.
The patio will flow into the second bar and look similar to Chilly Willys’ beer garden.
When Wilson took over the bar he quickly saw potential on Franklin Street.
“The opportunity on Franklin Street is pretty good right now,” he said. “It’s probably the hottest spot in town.”
Wilson purchased an old insurance building in June 2013, on Franklin, just south of Piston’s, in order to cash in on the street’s growing popularity. His target opening date is Sept. 16, 2014.
“During all of the events, Fall Festival and all that stuff, you’re not going to have to keep going inside to get a beer or wait on the waitress to come from inside.” Wilson said. “There’s going to be beer right there. There’s going to be a full bar out there.
The first 5 to 6 years of his Chilly Willy’s ownership proved greatly succesful for Wilson as he inhereited a large crowd of regulars from the bar’s previous following.
A self-proclaimed party man in his college days, Wilson said he brought in a huge college crowd to Chilly Willy’s from his shindig throwing days.
Now, the Chilly Willy’s owner hopes to cash in on the Franklin college scene.
“They’ve always kept nice, clean bars that the college kids like going to,” he said. “You can get all ages down there, hit all the demographics. Obviously everything (Word’s) doing at Lamasco’s is huge, you know, with the Franklin Street Events Association. We are going to be a big part of that.”
Franklin Street Tavern will have a similar humble philosophy and mentality to that of Chilly Willy’s and will feature live one to three-man acoustic music, Wilson said.
He said he looks forward to joining the Franklin Street Events Association, which is responsible for many of the events in that area.
Amy Rivers-Word, FSEA president and Lamascos’ Bar and Grill owner, said she is excited about the new addition to the Franklin Street community.
“One of the first premises we had when forming FSEA was to realize all of our bars are not in competition with each other,” Word said.
She said Franklin Street is similar to Broad Ripple Avenue, Fountain Square and Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis, where all of the bars and restaurants work together to help one another thrive.
“What makes those places unique is they have a variety of niche bars,” Word said. “More bars does not mean less for everybody. Oftentimes, more means more for everybody.”
Wilson said converting the former insurance building into a bar has been no picnic.
“We’ve been through so much to get this place open,” he said. “When we first closed on the property, right before we were getting the permits released, we found out we were 50 feet too close to Simpson Methodist Church.”
By Indiana Law, any new businesses that were not previously a bar must be 200 feet away from any churches.
Eventually, a piece of legislature was written to change the law, but prior to vote, an exemption to the law was discovered.
“We found out there was one exemption to that law and it’s if your building was deemed historic and/or you’re in the historic district,” he said. “And (Franklin Street Tavern) qualified for both.”
Wilson’s new bar will have food available and will be a drinker-friendly atmosphere, he said, and sports will always be on the TV’s.
Franklin Street Tavern will be located next to the old Bud’s Harley Davidson building on Franklin Street.