A planned Italian eatery in downtown Seymour has ended before it even opened its doors.
Although renovations on the building at 103 N. Chestnut St. are complete, furniture and equipment fill the inside and signage and a new awning are in place, Bella Vita Italian Bistro will not be opening, said Becky Schepman, executive director of Seymour Main Street.
Schepman is optimistic, however, another restaurant will fill the space this year, and she hopes it’s still Italian.
The building is owned and was renovated by Connie Gillenwater of Scottsburg.
“We have had several potential restaurateurs who have visited to look at the space, and the building owner is in negotiations currently with another potential restaurant,” Schepman said. “The building owner as well as Seymour Main Street are still in high hopes that we will still have an Italian restaurant downtown within the next few months.”
Bella Vita was supposed to offer a menu that included handmade pasta and wood-fire pizza, adding new flavor to the downtown, which currently has four restaurants and a bakery.
It had been in the works since 2016. The business was one of several under ownership of David Lawrence of Louisville, Kentucky.
Lawrence, who also operated Rails Craft Brew and Eatery in downtown Seymour, was arrested in January on charges of committing corrupt business influence, theft, check deception, check fraud and causing neglect of dependents by writing bad checks for child support for employees at Rails.
Rails is now run by Tom Goecker of Seymour, who also owns that building.
Lawrence is no longer involved with either restaurant.
“With the current legal situation that Mr. Lawrence is in, Connie decided he wanted to get a restaurant in his building sooner rather than later, so he is now looking for a restaurant to go in the renovated space,” Schepman said.
Originally built in 1886, the building once housed Knights of Pythias Hermion Lodge 44. Seymour Main Street purchased it in 2011 to “flip” it in an effort to help revitalize buildings and attract more businesses downtown.
“It is a beautiful building and we have had some interest already, but if someone in Seymour or the surrounding area is interested in opening up a restaurant in the space, they should reach out to us,” Schepman said. “Connie put a lot of hard work and effort into the building, and we are excited about seeing it get used and getting a new restaurant.”