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Coronavirus impact on Lexington Restaurant Economy

tomatoes and jam on a cutting board


Lexington restaurant owners continued to emphasize the safety of eating out in Lexington until Governor Behsear announced the statewide closure of all bars and restaurants to in-person traffic effective on Monday, March 16 after 5 pm with the exception of drive-thru, delivery and takeout.

In response, multiple campaigns were launched to help support the small businesses and service industry professionals who have been affected by the ban, including The Restaurant Workers Relief Program in partnership with The LEE Initiative and Maker’s Mark.

After 47 years, Alfalfa announced it’s closure amid COVID-19. The weekend before the in-person dining suspension, Alfalfa posted on Instagram that it would be “closing indefinitely” on Sunday, March 15. Over a week went by before Alfalfa officially announced on their Facebook page that indefinitely meant for good.

“I know everyone is stressed right now. But perhaps none more so than us small business owners,” says Dan Wu of Atomic Ramen. “The brutal reality is that many of our restaurants, shops and services will not survive this pandemic and its response. We need your help and we need it now.”

He continues, “Restaurants have always been on top of our handwashing, cleaning and generally hygiene. If you trusted us with your food before, you can trust us now.”

tomatoes and jam on a cutting boardBabycakes Cupcakes’ owner posted on Friday, March 13, “I just wanted to send a little reassurance. I run the shop alone and control all aspects from start to finish; no one ever touches a cupcake, but me, until they are happily at your destination. After every transaction, my counters are wiped, my credit card machine is wiped, doorknobs are wiped; any surface that was graced by outside hands is wiped with bleach. After all money transactions, my hands are sanitized and all of my equipment has always been bleached during every wash cycle. I deal with a lot of food allergies, so these practices have always been a part of my operation. I love my community and your safety is so important to me. I know things seem scary and confusing, but I do hope you find reasons to celebrate.”

Before Beshear made the request for all bars and restaurants to close to in-person traffic, Country Boy Brewing and West Sixth Brewing were among the first taprooms to announce their temporary closure on Sunday, March 15. Pivot Brewing shortly followed with the same announcement.

Doodles initially posted, “We are closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation and are increasing the frequency of steps we already take to insure a safe and healthy environment at the restaurant. We have eliminated some of the self-service aspect of dining at doodles (no more hand held menus, no more self serve silverware etc.). Our intention is to continue to serve our community as long as it is safe for all of you and us.” 
The diner then posted, “If breakfast in bed sounds up your alley call us for a take out order. We’ll bring it out to your car. We have also changed up our table wait system so be sure and bring a cell phone if you plan on dining inside our restaurant (we’ll ask you to wait outside until we can take your order and seat you). We’ve spread our tables apart and are continuing to follow all the guidelines that help squash the spread of Covid-19.”

Kevin Lane Dearinger shared his recent experience at the Euclid Kroger on Saturday, March 14, “It was a zoo this afternoon. A run on pasta and pineapple sherbet. One lady had what appeared to be thirty cans of Beefaroni in her cart. She looked particularly humorless. The stock clerks were jovial. Artisanal breads were lonely and unwanted. The salad bar was as closed as the last Blockbuster Video. My own prudence? I wiped down everything with a Clorox towelette. The Girl Scouts sold out and bailed out.”

The Fresh Market announced on their website, “Our Team Members are now required to wear face coverings in the store. Starting Tuesday, April 14, we’re requiring that all guests do too. Please be sure before you enter our stores to have a face covering.”

Many restaurants are offering unique and independent delivery services, like girlsgirlsgirls burritos, who offers bicycle delivery and takeout exclusively through their website. “We’re offering free delivery to help people working from home and choosing to stay in more often. Folks are welcome to add instructions on their order if they’d like it left on their doorstep w/o contact. For those stopping by the shop but practicing social distancing, we have tables spread out accordingly and outdoor seating. girls’ staff practices excellent hygiene, and all our tools and spaces are sanitized as required and every hour at the minimum. We love Lexington, are happy to offer healthy food during this challenging time, and will continue to patron our fellow local restaurants and support their employees.”

Good Foods Co-op initially suspended their typical self-serving options on their hot bar, salad bar, and soup bar, and instead offered some prepackaged foods on the bars and in their grab & go coolers. Whole Foods did the same while asking customers “no nibbling, please.”

“News about this global concern is so fluid, it has understandably created anxiety and uncertainty,” said Britney Ruby Miller, President of Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment. We’ve taken this threat seriously and have implemented comprehensive tactics to guard against it in each of our steakhouses.” 

“The trajectory of the Coronavirus issue is certainly concerning for everyone in hospitality right now,” said Miller. “We feel an obligation to our wonderful teams, guests and communities to do all we can to combat this. We’re very hopeful that if corporate citizens step up as so many already have and take thoughtful, preventative measures, we’ll collectively help flatten the severity and duration curve which will promote a healthier outlook.”

In an effort to support local restaurants and merchants in the downtown and Chevy Chase areas, LexPark announced on Monday that it will convert several paid parking spaces into “Curbside Pick-up ONLY” spaces marked by blue bags. Restaurants and merchants are encouraged to reach out to the LexPark customer service center to request a nearby meter to be converted for this use. As of March 18, Lexington Parking Authority (LPA) will not charge LexPark on-street meters until Friday, April 10. They will re-evaluate if it needs to last further.

Despite the St. Patrick’s Parade cancellation, Oscar Diggs recommends North Limestone as a holiday celebration destination, offering paper and plastic utensils upon request, and sanitizing menus after being used. “It’s not just the luck of the Irish, it’s also careful planning and a lot of preparation around here that brings a delicious St. Patrick’s day menu to life!”

In response to the in-person dining ban, multiple campaigns were launched to help support those affected by the ban, including The Restaurant Workers Relief Program in partnership with The LEE Initiative and Maker’s Mark.

Sidebar Grill initially stressed, “We are open for dining and drinking and adhere to the same strict health department policies as we always have.”

During a time of uncertainty, Zim’s Cafe asked those on the receiving end to give as well. Father Jim Sichko, a Papal Missionary of Mercy, and Chef Ouita Michel teamed up this St. Patrick’s Day to give away free dinners.


A continuously updated sampling of Lexington, KY restaurants offering takeout and delivery amid COVID-19.

What’s open, what’s closed, what’s closing for coronavirus in Lexington.


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