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Businesses trying to survive COVID-19, look to future

Posted at 5:40 PM, Jul 28, 2020

VERSAILES, Ky. (LEX 18) — The most recent restrictions will bring even more challenges to the hospitality industry.

Tourism and other local businesses will continue to feel the impact of COVID-19.

But communities across Kentucky are determined to protect health, while trying to keep local economies afloat.

"When you come down here on a weekend now, there's people walking around. There's stuff to do. Things that are easily accessible, so it's really changed a lot just in the last two years," said Emily Riddle, a local business owner in Woodford County.

Riddle is one of the many new business owners invested in Versailles who are impacted by COVID-19.

Along with several buildings, Riddle and her husband own a boutique and the Amsden Coffee Club.

"We've had to pivot a little bit. We've added new services here like curbside, and online ordering, and people have really embraced that," said Riddle.

When some of the restrictions were first lifted allowing some of the businesses to return to downtown Versailles, the city wanted to find ways to bring people back safely.

One of the initiatives was shutting down Court Street during the weekends to allow more dining options outside.

"And nobody even has to go inside a restaurant. They can order online and have it delivered to their table," said Emily Downey with the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce.

Despite the moves to promote the economy, business owners and families are feeling the squeeze from COVID-19 restrictions.

Bars being forced to close once again and restaurants limiting capacity will only further impact the county's unemployment rate.

According to the Kentucky Center for Statistics, the unemployment rate in Woodford County was 3.3% in February which was the month before the pandemic hit. Within two months, the rate rose to 12.8%.

The Chamber of Commerce does have a website which serves as a resource for businesses and people looking for jobs.

Downey also helped spearhead a virtual job fair to bring together job seekers and businesses looking to hire.

"And we acted, as we call, Chamber concierge to match them with the right folks at the positions to be able to have those conversations," said Downey.

Versailles is conveniently close to Keeneland and the Bourbon Trail, so restrictions have impacted the number of visitors passing through.

But Emily Riddle is banking on the future of her town, and the economic momentum built over the past few years.

"So we're very resilient, very stubborn, we'll do whatever it takes to make it continue in that fashion," said Riddle.

Six months ago, she announced plans for a new hotel in the heart of downtown. Last week, the location was made public.

It will be across the street from the Courthouse, inside what is now a Community Trust site.

In addition to at least 30 hotel rooms, the building will host a restaurant and distillery.

With a hat tip to the bourbon industry, the hotel will be called The Rickhouse.

"It's somewhere in the community, even if they're not spending the night there, they can get a bite to eat. They can go to the bar and enjoy it as well," said Riddle.

The Rickhouse will hopefully open in a world without COVID-19 restrictions in late 2021. The hotel's opening will also help signal Versailles is on the rebound.