Bristol small business owners rally behind Hard Rock Hotel & Casino project

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BRISTOL, VA (WJHL)- A newly-launched coalition of small businesses have thrown their support behind the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol project ahead of the critical November referendum. A release from the ‘Vote Yes For Bristol’ campaign lists over two dozen businesses as members of the ‘Small Businesses for Bristol’ coalition.

Bristol Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Beth Rhinehart says the coalition is part of the Chamber’s resolution of support for the casino project.

“It’s really more than just the resort-casino itself, it’s what comes from that that’s going to make such a difference,” Rhinehart said.

The ‘Vote Yes for Bristol’ campaign says the Hard Rock resort will create over 2,000 jobs with an average total compensation of $46,500. Rhinehart says this is the economic development the Bristol area needs to sustain itself.

“Being a fiscally distressed community to begin with on the Virginia side, [and] COVID happening, this really is very important to know there is this opportunity,” she said.

One business on the coalition list is Blakley-Mitchell Clothing Company. Hugh Testerman Jr., a Bristol store manager, said he’s is ready to see better-paying jobs come to the area.

“It’s not just a casino. It’s a resort for families, kids, and everything else, and something to boost up our economy around this whole area,” said Testerman.

Cranberry Lane and Southern Churn owner Karen Hester is also a member of the coalition. She says the casino project is coming at the right time. Her business had to close for two months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You know that’s unprecedented to have to suffer, being a small business,” said Hester. “But you know how great to have this opportunity. An exciting part for downtown, they’re going to run shuttles from the casino to downtown, bring in visitors back and forth.”

The Hard Rock project’s fate will fall on Bristol, Virginia voters during the upcoming referendum. Early voting begins on September 18th, with Election Day on November 3rd.

Rhinehart said the Chamber of Commerce wants the community to understand the magnitude of the one-time vote.

“When there aren’t other opportunities that really seem to be as viable for future growth and economic stability for the Bristol, Virginia side, and all the surrounding communities,” she said, “it’s significantly important to the economic community of our businesses, as well as just personal opportunities for residents and employees.”

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