LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — After a rough year, the hospitality industry is on the comeback. Restrictions have slowly been lifted and events are happening in downtown Lexington. It's a light at the end of the tunnel for many businesses.
Bluegrass Tavern has become a staple bar in the pavilion. For the bourbon bar, each shutdown was harder than the next.
"It's so hard to manage staffing, manage inventory and manage finances when you don't know how long you're going to be open," Bluegrass Tavern Owner Sean Ebbitt said.
The tavern owner says not only was their capacity cut in half but so was their income. Over the past few weeks, with events like the Home and Garden Show and the Girls Sweet 16 Tournament over the weekend, along with the announcement of Thursday Night Live, Ebbitt said a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.
"I think for all of the business owners downtown, they're just excited. They're happy to see people coming out. The level of confidence of the consumer has risen a lot," Ebbitt added.
With the rising level of confidence, Ebbitt said he's seen more and more people coming through their doors.
"Just in the next 90 days, the amount of wedding parties, the after parties, and receptions that we have booked here has just increased massively. Where last year it was zero," Ebbitt said.
The Downtown Lexington Partnership is a non for profit that develops business downtown. The President, Terry Sweeney, believes that downtown Lexington will have a quick rebound.
"We had LexLive open, a large multi entertainment venue. We have the Lexington Central Bank Center going through their renovation and opening in phases, so opening in that way. We have Frank and Dino's that will be opening, an Italian restaurant," Sweeney said.
But smaller capacity restaurants, like Local Taco, have concerns about the events being held downtown while restaurant capacity is still at 60%.
"We're used to being the place that is quick, you get something to eat and then you can make it to your event. Now, there's a good chance you can eat quick, and you can get out to your event, but some of the people at the end of the line that didn't come early are probably going to be like 'got to go,' so they don't miss their concert, or basketball game," Local Taco General Manager Kevin Lewis, said.
Despite being cautious, Lewis said the days of normalcy have been a long time coming.
"In two weeks, we can go back to normal, well then in a couple months, then another couple months. Now here we are, I don't know, 13-14 months in. It's this struggle. You hit this wall because you're trying to get to the finish line, but the finish line keeps getting farther and farther away," Lewis said.
Their hope? The businesses come out of this ready to thrive.