Partner in Plans for Reopened Mike Fink No Longer Involved

UPDATE (10:19 a.m.): Jimmy Bernstein of the Mike Fink restaurant sent an email to Covington's Licking Riverside neighborhood association explaining some of the reasons for the delay in opening. Read that email in full at the bottom of this post.

ORIGINAL POST:

It was announced in August that a new partnership between two family-owned companies with a history of success together would reopen the long-shuttered Mike Fink floating restaurant. On Tuesday The River City News learned that that partnership has dissolved and plans for having the celebrated restaurant back in operation in time for the Cincinnati Reds' Opening Day this spring are on hold.

"We were taken out of the process," said Bob Conway, president of Karlo's Bistro and the company that had announced a partnership with Jimmy Bernstein of BB Riverboats to collaborate on a refurbished Mike Fink. "We went along for quite a while trying to get a deal done and in December the Bernsteins came to us and told us they were going to do that by themselves."

Phone messages were left at BB Riverboats for comment Tuesday afternoon. This story will be updated when comments are made.

"At the same time, I know they were having second thoughts based on the cost of the project," Conway said. "The costs were higher than what we would have done ourselves but I know they were starting to have second thoughts based on that."
 
Conway joined Jimmy Bernstein at an August meeting of the Historic Licking Riverside neighborhood association meeting to announce the plans to reopen the Fink. The closed restaurant had been criticized as an eyesore after sitting dormant for several years at the foot of one of Covington's most visited neighborhoods. Residents applauded the plans to reopen the Fink, a project that was estimated to cost between $1.5 to $2.5 million at the time of the announcement. Some noticeable renovation work on the exterior of the boat began quickly after.
 
The partnership that Conway wanted would have placed his company in charge of the operation of the Mike Fink, a plan that he says led to disagreement about how the restaurant should function. "In the end, I think they wanted to be more involved in the operation directly and the whole idea was we would operate it." Conway said he tried to re-negotiate the partnership deal before the parties decided to part ways.
 
Conway says he has no hard feelings toward his former partners, who collaborated to make TGI Fridays a long-time success at the former Covington Landing. He's also unsure of the future of the Mike Fink now that the partnership is no more. "I'm not really certain what's happening," he said. "I heard we were looking at maybe the spring of 2014, but that's certainly not definitive. I actually don't see anything moving forward on it right now."
 
"I was kind of taken out of the loop. We were allowing the Bernsteins to guide the initial stages of it but it didn't make any sense to me why they would want to cut us out."
 
If I were in their position, I would not take on a partner anyway," Conway said. "In fact, initially when we approached them, we approached them on the basis we would buy the boat from them but they weren't interested in selling. They're doing what I would've done in the first place but I would've also been pushing to get the place open, at the very latest, at the end of May."
 
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
 
EMAIL FROM JIMMY BERNSTEIN TO RESIDENTS OF LICKING RIVERSIDE:
 
"It is important that I communicate with you about the progress of the Mike Fink and the mess of debris that collected at the Mike Fink site. It is my intent that you pass along my message to the membership of the HLRCA and I would like the opportunity to possibly speak at the next meeting. It would be my pleasure to answer and questions any of neighbors might have about the progress in reopening the Mike Fink.
 
I am sure that everyone is aware of the mess that the river left at the Mike Fink site. By the time you read this message the majority of the mess should be cleared. Several things contributed to the amount of debris that was caught by the ramp to the Mike Fink. The Licking river emptied a tremendous amount of debris that got caught around the Mike Fink. This debris collected around the Mike Fink before we were able to properly move it closer to the shore. As a result the ramp from the boat to shore was caught in the water and all of the debris collected along the ramp. We tried to clear as much debris as possible with our work boat, but the mess that was left could not be removed by work boat alone. We are utilizing a back hoe to clear the lot of debris and we will do our best to restore the lot back and make it look presentable. I apologize on behalf of my family for the inconvenience, and I hope that all will understand the cost that was absorbed to clear this natural occurrence. We will attempt to be more proactive, to keep this from happening again. 
 
We have invested a tremendous amount into the Mike Fink, and are committed to reopening for business. Unfortunately, we did hit a set back before the new year. As you know, we were working with a partner to reopen the project and we were moving forward rapidly in the hopes that we could open in the spring of this year. Before the partnership was finalized I began working to reopen the Mike Fink, designs work, contraction plans, and renovations were moving forward. The partnership began to fall apart just before the holidays, disintegrated rapidly.  We are currently regrouping and making plans to continue with the project. Reopening for the spring of 2013 is not going to happen. We are extremely disappointed that we will not be reopening, but are confident that we will continue to move forward and with patience to get the Mike Fink reopened.
 
I wanted to talk to the neighborhood first and explain our position.  I wanted everyone to hear from me that we are committed to reopening the boat in covington and have zero plans to move or sell the boat. My grandfather fought to keep the Mike Fink in Covington, it is my heritage and my family's legacy. Tonight channel 12 news at 6 will air an interview I did this morning with Joe Webb. I wanted to engage neighborhood personally before the press, but regrettably because the debris made news the story was scooped by the press first."
 
Photo: Mike Fink/RCN file