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Bras in biker bar suggested as marketing for Pulaski County tourism

PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (April 30, 2011) — Bras on the ceiling of a well-known biker bar on Route 66 could become part of a marketing program for Pulaski County tourism.

During a marketing update at Thursday’s meeting of the Pulaski County Tourism Board, board members discussed nontraditional ways they could promote local tourism. Board member Rick Morris initially named Sweetwater BBQ, Hopper’s Pub, and Miller’s Grill as examples of area restaurants which could draw people specifically to Pulaski County as a destination location rather than simply attract customers who are already planning to come to the area.

“I think we have some unique businesses here that could draw some folks to come through town,” Morris said. “I just throw those out as examples; if there are other destinations that will attract folks to come here specifically, I think those things are a call to action to specifically come here.”

Morris said people drive to Columbia to visit Shakespeare’s Pizza or drive to Jefferson City to visit a prison-themed bar.

“I ate dinner one night with a bunch of wierdos there,” Morris said.

Wiles cautioned that promoting individual businesses can create complications for a tax-funded entity.

“We have to be extremely careful as our organization to not promote one over another. You’ve got to tread very carefully to promote as a whole all restaurants,” Wiles said, noting that offering cooperative marketing in which the tourism bureau pays a portion of the cost of advertising decided upon by an individual business could work.

Board member Todd Bailey had another idea: the Elbow Inn biker bar in Devil’s Elbow, which he called an “absolutely huge” attraction for people stopping in on Route 66 tours that could become even bigger with marketing.

“I am surprised by the wild hoodlum place out at the Elbow Inn,” Bailey said. “I ate there for the first time, what, three four weeks ago, and have since taken folks from St. Louis and from the Lebanon hospital down there. They have fallen in love with that. They are like, ‘Are you crazy? Has anybody ever got kicked out of the Elbow Inn, and if they did, what did they do?’ That’s the big thing: They are going back there and telling everybody about it.”

Bailey said he understands Wiles’ concern about competition.

“That’s the same way Richland is with their Cave Restaurant, but the problem that they have with that is the whole area won’t get on board with that and say, ‘This is a destination; while they are here, they are probably going to come through our town and spend money,’” Bailey said. “Instead, they are looking at it as competition and saying, ‘If I promote him, then he’s going to get all the business.’ Well, the old saying is, ‘The more dogs, the more fleas,’ and you have that group that is surrounding here, everybody is going to do very well.”

Board member Jackie Farris said she’s never been to the Elbow Inn, prompting an enthusiastic response by Bailey.

“You’ve never been there? You have to go there!” Bailey said. “It is an experience, and once you experience it, you’ll be able to put it on to somebody and say it with enthusiasm… ‘It is worth your time to come down from St. Louis, go to the Elbow Inn, spend the night at one of our hotels, get up in the morning, and slather yourself back to St. Louis.’”

While the Elbow Inn sometimes has a wild reputation, the business is owned by a retired law enforcement officer from the Missouri Department of Conservation, Terry Roberson, who was a candidate in the 2008 Republican primary for Pulaski County sheriff. Law enforcement records indicate that the Elbow Inn does not generate significant numbers of criminal cases compared to other area drinking establishments.

Responding to board member questions, Morris explained that there are bras hanging from the ceiling of the Elbow Inn.

“It is a huge attraction, and I don’t think it is in a negative way,” Bailey said. “It is just an experience and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.”

Another board member said the KY-3 television station from Springfield is doing a series of stories on attractions on Route 66, and did a segment on the Elbow Inn including video of the bras on the ceiling.

“I think there are opportunities for us to showcase the uniqueness of Pulaski County, and sometimes that call to action has to be specific to cause them to want to come here,” Morris said, citing the Randy’s Roadhouse Roadkill Restaurant as a reason he’s willing to drive to Phelps County.

“It’s a piece of crap, but you know what? We go because it is something unique,” Morris said.

Bailey said the bras in the Elbow Inn could be key to a marketing campaign.

“Can we market for them? Somewhere in Columbia if you did an advertisement of, ‘Come on down, but ladies bring an extra brassiere, because you’re going to need it,’” Bailey said. “People are going to say, ‘What in the world is going on with this place down here?’ … Whoever thought of it, wow, it is just fantastic.”

Wiles said she believed Morris “had a good point” and would look into ways the Tourism Board could accomplish his goals.

“We might be able to develop a co-op program with the partners on that where they pay for that specific opportunity to highlight themselves,” Wiles said. “We just don’t want to get in the mix where we’re choosing.”

Morris said he understands the need to be “fair and equal” but said it’s important to promote smaller venues as well as larger options.

“I get it… my only caution is especially the smaller ones, the co-op may be a bridge too far for some of them,” Morris said. “How do we make it?”

Wiles and other board members noted the seasonal nature of marketing for many of Pulaski County’s attractions, including float trips and museums. While the area’s outfitters and some other business categories have associations that work with the Tourism Board and local chambers of commerce, that’s not yet the case with area restaurants.

“A restaurant association would solve all that where we go in and say, you bring to us something we could advertise… it keeps us at a distance.” Bailey said. “We need a restaurant association so bad. We have got so many unique places.”

Wiles said he’s been speaking with owners of area restaurants about creating a restaurant association and believes that’s a viable possibility.

Bailey said downtown Waynesville is another example that has grown so much that it’s created growth problems.

“Good luck trying to find a parking spot; it’s already packed to the hilt,” Bailey said. “I think it’s great, I think it’s fantastic, it’s about time Waynesville downtown is on track.”

Morris said parking issues are more of a perception than a reality.

“You can walk a block and it will take like three minutes,” Morris said.

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Tourism Board discusses marketing
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 2:33 pm
THIS ARTICLE: Bras in biker bar suggested as marketing for Pulaski County tourism
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 12:00 pm

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