NewsCovering Kentucky


Raise a glass; local bar owners relieved by Mayor's decision

Posted at 6:29 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 19:45:33-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — One trip inside Lexington's Distillery District and you'll see just how much business this place can churn out during the warm weather months, and even during the not-so-warm months.

It may be an exaggeration to say that bars like The Break Room and Elkhorn Tavern print money on a good weekend, but it's not that far fetched. But 2020 has been a little different than most years, dating to March when COVID-19 made its way into Kentucky.

"It has been a struggle," said Elkhorn Tavern Co-owner Jeff Wiseman.

Wiseman and his partner also own the Barrel House Distillery just next door. But the real struggle was only about to begin, as renewal fees for liquor licenses were coming due.

"It's hard to fork out that much money and hope you'll still be around in a few months," said Break Room Manager Stephanie Quinn.

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton recognized the fees, in some cases up to $6,000, might be a stretch for many, so she gave everyone a mulligan. Those who can't pay it this year, will get a pass to 2021. Those business owners who've already paid, will be exempt from doing so next year.

"Very generous," said Quinn. Nothing to sneeze at is basically what Wiseman said.

"It's a little easier to pay our bills and keep our employees employed," he said.

Another long line at the unemployment office is precisely what Mayor Gorton was trying to avoid. So while it'll cost the city roughly $750,000 in revenue, a hit that'll be spread over two budgets, she felt waiving fees was better than the alternative.

"Job losses would have a bigger longer lasting impact on our budget. Our bars and restaurants are an important part of our economy. We need to do what we can to support it," Mayor Gorton explained in a statement released by her office.

Wiseman thinks she undoubtedly made the right decision.

"In the end it'll all come back." he said of the city's lost revenue, "because people who can stay open can keep their employees."