Lexington’s exciting restaurant scene is reopening May 22, and Mayor Linda Gorton is helping that along by working with restaurants to find ways they can expand seating on sidewalks and parking lots.
“Our City has one of the most exciting culinary scenes in the country, and I think we’re all anxious for our restaurants to reopen,” Gorton said. “At the same time, we want everyone to be safe, including those who work in the restaurants, and those who want to eat there.”
To maintain social distancing, Governor Andy Beshear has said restaurants are allowed to fill 33% of their tables.
One way to expand seating numbers is to put tables on adjacent sidewalks, in parking lots and possibly into streets that we can close, Gorton said.
“We’ve got a lot of restaurants interested in moving seating outdoors,” Gorton said. “We still have details to figure out on this, but we wanted to let restaurants know we’re working on it so they can make preparations.” It will be necessary to suspend code, permit and fee requirements to allow restaurants and retail to expand their business footprint outdoors, initially for a three-week period with an opportunity to extend that if needed.
Gorton said businesses will still need approval from the Health Department and the Bureau of Alcohol Beverage Control. Restaurants will need to clearly define their seating boundary. In addition to allowing for social distancing, there must be enough room for those with disabilities to pass by. And wearing masks in restaurants will continue to be important, when possible.
One restaurant interested in expanding outdoors is J. Render’s Southern Table and Bar, 3191 Beaumont Centre Circle. Owner Gwyn Everly said, "As we are trying to navigate these uncertain times, we find that being creative and thinking outside the box is a must. We are so happy that Mayor Gorton and the City of Lexington are doing that, as well. By allowing us to expand our patio into our parking lot, it enables us to retain the same number of tables on our patio, which of course, means less loss in revenue. This is a game-changer, especially for our restaurant friends without patios or landlocked downtown. Being able to partially open on the 22nd is fantastic, and having unlimited patio seating -- six feet apart of course -- will enable us to begin to recapture the revenue we lost during the shutdown."
Councilmember Amanda Mays Bledsoe, whose District includes the Beaumont area, said she is pleased to see new options for restaurants. “Our local restaurants have been working hard to keep their doors open for our community, and we’re excited to have another way to safely support their small businesses,” she said.
As President of VisitLEX, Mary Quinn Ramer works with restaurants all over town. Restaurants are very important to Lexington’s tourism industry, Ramer said.
“Our restaurant partners have been hit incredibly hard by this pandemic, and we have all missed being able to frequent their establishments in our normal way over these last two months,” Ramer said.
“As our restaurants begin to reopen, we appreciate having options to expand the physical footprint in an effort to keep our employees and guests safe. This phased reopening is an important step in getting our industry back to work, and we thank Mayor Gorton for her leadership.”