'You just learn to adapt': NKY restaurants face indoor dining ban ahead of winter

New orders in effect through Dec. 13
Which NKY restaurants have been shut down?
Posted at 10:25 PM, Nov 20, 2020

COVINGTON, Ky. — Through months of living amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the family behind City Goat restaurant in Covington knows all about transformation.

After operating in both Hebron and another part of Covington, owner Amy Arvin said they moved to their Madison Avenue location in April. This time, they faced change beyond their control.

“We just went with it,” she said. “Everything was shut down, so we threw a tarp up here by the front door, remodeled and did a whole bunch of carryout at the same time.”

Through limited capacity, takeout, delivery and a lot of customer loyalty, they’ve survived. They even have a pair of tables out front, which is space they know won’t be viable for long.

“You can only have seats outside for maybe a couple more days, and it’s 40s and rain. Nobody’s really going to be able to sit out there,” she said.

Now, Kentucky bars and restaurants are under new statewide orders banning indoor dining through Dec. 13. The news comes amid back-to-back record-breaking days of COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth and a coronavirus surge seen across the country, but the ban hasn't come without criticism from lawmakers and restaurants themselves.

RELATED: Frequently asked questions on new Kentucky restrictions

Many of Northern Kentucky’s bars and restaurants already provide outdoor dining. For instance, Covington's Braxton Brewing uses enclosed plastic "igloos" to serve patrons even as temperatures fall. But for many owners, outdoor service is not a long-term solution through winter.

“You just learn to adapt,” Arvin said. “You have to if you want to survive.”

At Rich’s Proper Food and Drink on Madison and East Seventh, the outdoor-only restriction is tough to digest as the holidays approach.

“The holiday season’s huge for the restaurant industry,” said owner and manager Bill Whitlow. “People go out shopping. They go out eating, company parties, et cetera. So, it’s a very big portion of our annual income that we are going to miss out on.”

While he’s trying to stay positive, he said several bar and restaurant owners he’s spoken to are not confident the restrictions will soon be lifted as the number of cases continues to climb.

“This next month, month and a half, it’s not about making money at the restaurant. It’s not about profit. It’s about keeping people employed and paying the bills,” he said.

The restriction on indoor dining is in place through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13. There’s no word yet on whether those restrictions will be extended if Kentucky’s COVID-19 situation doesn’t improve.