COVINGTON, Ky. — As local businesses continue to wait for state and federal aid, some Northern Kentucky partners are offering a stimulus program of their own.
The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED and Horizon Community Funds have created the Northern Kentucky Restaurant Relief Fund.
Restaurants and bars are eligible for $1,000 grants over the next couple weeks, but they will need help of loyal customers.
Anyone who buys a $50 or more gift card from a locally-owned restaurant is buying that establishment a chance in a weekly random drawing for one of the grants. There are 25 grants available as of Tuesday, with more possible. Ten will be given away each week. A restaurant/bar can only win once.
Each receipt counts as an entry for the drawing. To submit a receipt and help a local business, click here.
"There's a lot of fear out there because we're now more than one month in and a lot of bars and restaurants still haven't gotten any funding from the CARES Act or unemployment," said Brent Cooper, NKY Chamber President and CEO. "We keep assuring them it will be back dated and to just be patient."
But Cooper said he knew there needed to be immediate help - and that was going to come from local resources.
"These are places we go to celebrate our birthdays, where we have business meetings," Cooper said. "We need them to come back, and come back in a big way. It adds to our quality of life."
Early on a Tuesday, Chris Britt was alone inside Agave and Rye on Madison Avenue in Covington.
"A thousand dollars right now is a lot of money for the restaurant business," he said. "Whether it's the next food order or paying employees to come back, because bringing back our employees is the most important thing to us."
The "epic taco" joint started in that location in 2018 and has since expanded to three other restaurants. It had plans to do even more expansion, before the pandemic. Britt told WCPO those are still in the cards, just on hold.
Agave and Rye in Covington just reopened for carryout last week.
Across the street, Rich's Proper Food was preparing to open for #takeouttuesday as well.
"Every dollar that comes in helps us stay open, keep our employees working and keep the vibe alive,” owner Bill Whitlow said in a news release. “We’re all coming together, we’re all helping each other. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
Businesses in Northern Kentucky stressed the importance of gift cards during the pandemic and subsequent shutdown.
"Gift cards have kept us afloat during these trying times and helped us make sure we could make payroll,” said Fran Kusala of The Farmstand Market & Café in Union, in a news release.
Horizon Community Funds is acting as the program's administrator. Cooper said the NKY Chamber has taken on fundraising to increase the number of grants that can be given each Thursday, from 20 initially to 25 right now. The goal is to raise in excess of $50,000.
"Here in Covington, [around Agave and Rye] in particular, has been the epicenter for a new development in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky," said Cooper. "This has been a booming spot and if you're a developer, you're hoping a lot of these restaurants come back in a big way."
Not every business has been able to weather the shutdown. Cooper told WCPO the Chamber has been informed of a handful of businesses that do not plan to reopen when Kentucky's "Healthy at Home" order is released.
To submit a receipt and help a local business, click here.
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