Their glass is half full; bar owners not worried yet

Posted at 4:22 PM, Jul 02, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — It's before noon and Kore Donnelly is already at work. This is not unusual for most, but he's a bar owner who keeps late hours. But there's always something to be done at Blue Stallion Brewing Company, especially now.

"We are evolving and learning new ways of staying in business," Donnelly said from his side of the bar.

When the spread of COVID-19 began in March and forced the state to close non-essential businesses, Kore and other bar owners had to get creative. They canned their beer (rather than selling it on tap inside) and sold it with a curbside pick-up offering.

"We appreciate all of the support we got from the community, and it helped pay our bills, pay our rent and all of that," Donnelly said.

But what if this recent spike in coronavirus cases in places like Florida, Texas and Arizona were to happen here, and another closure was mandated?

"Nobody would've survived without the support of the community. So I would encourage people (if that were to happen), to do as they've done in the past," Donnelly said of the success of the curbside business.

Lexington-Fayette County Health Department officials feel as if the bars could cause some problems. Suggestions to remain open include forcing everyone to remain seated rather than coming to the bar for drink orders.

Erick Ostrander, the owner of "The Paddock" near the University of Kentucky campus, asks his customer to wear masks when they come inside. He, too, had to get creative when the shutdowns were announced. He partnered with a friend who owns a catering business and added a food menu at his bar. That allowed him to open early, but he did so under fire from many in the community who thought he crawled through a loophole that never should've been opened. (His license to serve food was approved by the LFCHD). It also didn't help then, that his bar appeared crowded as soon as customers were allowed back inside.

"One of the things we had an issue with is we were going by the exact government guidelines," Ostrander said. "The reality is most businesses can't follow those directly," he added.

He means that even as he's now allowed to have up to 50 percent of his capacity, it's impossible to do that and promote social distancing due to the layout. So Ostrander is keeping things right around 30-33 percent capacity. He's also closing earlier than he did before COVID-19.

"Our Governor has done a really good job of being slow and steady. As annoying as that can be, long-term, it's going to work out better," Ostrander said.

Ostrander said the big problem from a business standpoint comes when you return to 100 percent too soon and then have to shut down completely. He'd rather ride things out slowly.

But Donnelly and other bars/brewery owners face the possibility of a shutdown, should the numbers spike here as they have elsewhere. He said he could survive it again, but only with a little help from his "friends."

"Nobody can survive if people forget that there are still businesses out there that need help," he said.