The Rebound: Tourist destination built on bourbon looking to rebound

Posted at 7:40 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 19:40:46-04

BARDSTOWN, Ky. (LEX 18) — Bardstown is built on bourbon and beauty. For years, the town has opened its doors to the world.

"To be able to promote a place like Bardstown, the Bourbon Capital of the World, who doesn't want to do that?" Executive Director of the Bardstown-Nelson County Tourist Commission Samantha Brady said.

But for more than two months, the world has stopped and businesses built on visitors are closed. One of the oldest businesses in town, the Talbott Tavern, sits almost empty. All bedrooms upstairs are empty as guests have been moved off-site so the tavern could isolate their hospitality operations.

"We're stressing the hand washing, glove use, and we're making masks mandatory in this building," said co-owner Jim Kelley.

Brady is working with local businesses and organizations to help the town bounce back.

"We all want the same thing, and we all want to drive business to Bardstown. Not only now, but in the future when we're able to reopen or partially reopen," said Brady.

One of Bardstown's popular attractions, Willett Distillery, just celebrated the reopening of its restaurant for curbside pickup.

"It feels fantastic," said Andrew Pope, the GM of the Bar at Willett. "We have cocktails to go. We have wine by the bottle, beer by the case. We have a really nice sandwich menu that we're serving from 11-5pm."

Pope says they have kept the kitchen busy by training staff members and donating meals to the local hospital and a food pantry.

As for the bourbon, there are still 40,000 barrels aging in the rickhouses.

"We maintained operations pretty much as business as usual as far as our bottling line and our distillery. So that has been business as usual," said Pope.

Brady says the bourbon industry is why she is confident Bardstown will rebound.

"And if you want that authentic bourbon experience, this is where you need to be," said Brady.

Brady is working with local owners to make sure the rebound is done right. That starts this week with the reopening of stores and restaurants.

At the historic tavern, Kelley says they are preparing their dining rooms downstairs, and aim to have a 70-person capacity with distancing. All employees will be wearing masks.

"A mask is very minor compared to what we've been doing. That's for sure," said Kelley. "We're all in this to make it through safely so we don't have to go through it again."

Pope says the restaurant at Willett will wait to reopen until July when capacity increases.

If you'd like to learn more about what businesses are still open, or will be reopening, follow this link.