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New food court and outdoor venue planned for Forest
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New food court and outdoor venue planned for Forest

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A new outdoor food court and venue is planned to open on U.S. 221 in Forest in a few weeks.

The property where Carol’s Place restaurant used to stand at 15173 Forest Road now is home to a pavilion with fire pits, benches and, soon, several food trucks.

Chip Duff, with Duff Development Group, who is developing the concept, said he is working on getting a festival permit from Bedford County and plans to open what will be called “The Backyard” to the public for drive-in movies, fire nights, craft fairs and car shows.

Bedford County Administrator Robert Hiss said the developer does need a few permits to move forward. Bedford County’s Community Development department currently is reviewing temporary use permits for various events the developer has planned throughout the year such as movies, craft fairs, a corn hole tournament, a chili cook-off, a hot dog eating contest and more.

Hiss said these temporary use permits also include a minor site plan to illustrate aspects like parking, traffic flow and portable toilets.

“We understand there are plans for food trucks on this property, but have not received any permits to date,” Hiss said in an email. “Our internal process includes a fairly simple zoning permit, particularly since this is already a commercial area. Of course, food trucks mostly have to coordinate with the Health Dept. and their permitting program.”

Mark Aldridge purchased the property back last March. He also owns the 11 acres behind the restaurant where Duval Auto Parts was located.

Due to a series of local and state regulations, it no longer was feasible for the owner to operate the restaurant, and it was demolished last spring, Duff told The News & Advance last spring.

Joe Beans Express Espresso was the first business to be located in The Backyard and has been set up in the footprint of Carol’s Place since last fall.

Linda Brown, owner of Joe Beans Express Espresso, said she is thrilled about The Backyard and is excited for more food trucks to join the coffee trailer in Forest.

“I think it’s exciting. It will be full of energy,” she said. “We can all benefit from this. I don’t see any competition. I see it as growth for all of us and it’s a great thing for Forest.”

The area’s growth over the past several years was what led her to open Joe Beans there.

Other food options planned to come to The Backyard from a variety of food trucks will include sweet and savory pies, barbecue, desserts, home cooked Southern dishes, hot dogs and even dog treats.

Nicole Johnson, director of tourism for Bedford County, said The Backyard concept is an exciting addition to the county’s dining options.

“Having the opportunity to experience a wide variety of foods in an outdoor atmosphere will be appealing to all ages,” she said. “Food trucks provide additional, and often unique, options and also create jobs and generate tax revenue for the local economy. With that being said, I believe it’s also important to continue supporting our local brick-and-mortar restaurant businesses, which have gone above and beyond to continue serving their patrons through the COVID pandemic. We want them to be successful as well.”

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