LAKESIDE PARK, Ky. — Northern Kentucky restaurant and bar owners said Monday felt like a grand reopening as they resumed indoor dining at 50% capacity after state restrictions shuttered dining rooms for about three weeks. Though indoor dining has started up again, restaurants must also observe an 11 p.m. service cutoff and a midnight closing time.
Barleycorn's co-owner Joe Heil said the temporary in-person dining shutdown was difficult for his sports bar locations in Lakeside Park, Cold Spring and Florence.
“It’s been yet another struggle, as you might imagine,” he said. “Our first concern is for our employees and what they’re doing. It’s Christmas time. It’s more than that -- they have rent to pay, car payments to make.”
Over the past few weeks, Barleycorn’s has been able to stay open with outdoor service, carryout and delivery.
“Went through a lot of propane,” he said. “We did our very best, and our employees did a great job too."
On Monday, Heil drove to Frankfort to speak with members of Kentucky’s House and Senate about the shutdown’s impact on the industry.
“We thought this entire shutdown was very unfair and biased to the restaurant industry, that we were the root of the problem,” he said. “In fact, we were doing everything right.”
The state's second largest employer, the restaurant industry, deserved better than the three-week shutdown, he said.
“We felt like we got our point across today, for the voice of all the restaurants in this area, and the state of Kentucky,” Heil said.
Other restaurant owners were glad to see the first COVID-19 vaccines arrive in the Tri-State, with the first doses administered to healthcare workers on Monday. It will still be several months before a vaccine will be widely available in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.
Avram Steuber, the chef and owner of The Gruff in Covington, said they hope the worst is behind them.
"We’re just looking to get 2020 over with and looking forward to the vaccine coming out, so hopefully by summer we will be able to see some normalized things as far as restaurants.” Steuber said.
Like the vaccine, Heil’s hoping for a shot in the arm with business as customers show their support.
"We're hoping that customers will come out and spend money at places, buy gift cards, things of that nature. I hope it's not too late. I hope there's a relief package in place as well."