Lexington restaurant Roulay reflects on first year of business amid pandemic

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Posted at 1:14 PM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 20:57:12-05

As part of the The Rebound Kentucky, LEX18 is working to bring our viewers stories of the lived experience of the pandemic and resources to help individuals, families and businesses bounce back from COVID-19. Open just three and a half weeks before COVID-19 forced restaurants to shutter, Roulay in Lexington is about to celebrate their one-year anniversary. They expected their first year to be challenging but nothing like this.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) -- Opening Roulay was a dream years in the making for Head Chef Kelly Mackey.

"It's been in the works for four or five years, " Mackey said.

The idea of combining Cajun and Creole food and French cuisines was a culmination of her life and experiences, but even after planning, working, and budgeting, nothing could have prepared her for COVID-19.

"It has been scary, and there have been weeks where it was week to week, " Mackey said.

Just three and a half weeks after opening, Roulay's doors were shut due to the pandemic. Most in Lexington didn't even know their name. Funds they had put aside for marketing and advertising were suddenly needed to cover basic costs.

"Everything's gonna be OK. We say that even when it feels like it's not going to be OK sometimes," Mackey said of the past year.

At times, Mackey said they have been down to just four people, but she credits the hardworking, tight-knit staff as the reason they have survived all the unknowns and multiple closures.

"If we didn't have the exact people that we have in the back of the house and in the front of the house ... I don't know if I could've made it just emotionally," Mackey said.

Mackey has big plans, and she is excited to embark on new ventures, but to truly rebound, she said she would like to get all her staff back to work. To do that, she says, they will need more assistance.

"What would really help us would be something to help us get that payroll back up to where I can get them off unemployment and get them back working full time," said Mackey.

A boost to ensure this life-long dream doesn't vanish with the pandemic but continues to help breathe life into a diverse and vibrant downtown.

Roulay is located at 107 W. Short St. in Lexington.

It is currently open for dinne from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and for Sunday brunch.