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The Wait is Over: Commonwealth Bistro to Open in Mainstrasse Village

It is three and a half years after the City of Covington made the new restaurant the first recipient of its business loan program - and at long last, Commonwealth Bistro will open its doors.

Owners Chris and Tess Burns announced on Facebook that Commonwealth, on Main Street in the city's Mainstrasse Village, would serve guests on Wednesday.

In April 2013, the city commission awarded a $150,000 loan for Commonwealth from a $1 million pool of money designated to serve as gap financing for new companies. The Burnses also turned to crowdsourcing to raise additional monies. The building that would become Commonwealth Bistro was also profiled by The River City News as a man recounted the days that his grandfather operated a barber shop there.

But then delays mounted. In June, 2014, the Burnses sat down with The River City News to talk about the challenges and to show that they were still focused on opening their restaurant.

And now, there is no more waiting. 

The River City News offers this quick Q-and-A with co-owners Tess Burns and Chef Chris Burns about Commonwealth Bistro:

RCN: Well, you made it! Tell us what you're feeling.

TESS BURNS: Gratitude. We are grateful to our community, neighbors, supporters, family and friends. We are so glad to be here in every sense of the word.

RCN: Tell us about the experience and the issues you faced trying to open this place.

TESS BURNS: Opening a restaurant is no small task. The whole way through, we made sure to stick to the important parts that we feel will make Commonwealth magnificent: locally-sourced and historically informed dishes, preserving the history of the building and the stories that predated Commonwealth, and ensuring our fit in the neighborhood. We want Commonwealth to feel like it has always been there.

RCN: What sets Commonwealth apart? And what are your favorite dishes from the menu?

TESS BURNS: Everything at Commonwealth has roots: our cuisine, our building, the decor, and even our staff. I actually grew up three doors down, and lived in an apartment in the building that now houses Bean Haus in my early twenties. Our roots definitely took some time to grow and we are excited to show everyone it was worth the wait. I'll share three menu highlights: Entree: Kentucky Fried Rabbit with buttermilk biscuit, creamed collard greens, Biz Baz sauce. Small Plate: Wild mushroom tamale with cotija cheese and black garlic crema. Cocktail: The Duveneck, Rittenhouse Rye, Blanc Vermouth, Byrrh, Bitters.

CHRIS BURNS: The menu people will see is a combination of an inspired interpretation of southern cuisine utilizing local ingredients, and my own history as a chef over the past 25 years.

TESS BURNS: Betty Burns, Chris's grandmother, sparked his passion for cooking at a very young age. They used to make breakfast together and she would let him make whatever he wanted. And now, we have a restaurant here.

RCN: What did you learn about the building and what is your design inspiration?

TESS BURNS: This building was home to many people and also housed many businesses—most notably a barber shop and a dry cleaner. We loved uncovering the history of this building along the way and throughout the construction process too—we loved the surprises that popped up along the way. For example, we found 80+ glass bottles, some from L. Fritz Soda Company which was housed on Pike Street.

The interiors were designed Corey Rineair. We also used artist Andrew Kern on all of artwork. 

RCN: Awesome! What are the basic details about attire and hours and reservations and all that?

TESS BURNS: Attire: Come as you are! Hours: Monday: closed; Tuesday through Friday: 5:30 – 10 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5:30 – 10 p.m.; Sunday: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Reservations: Call us at 859–916–6719, make reservations through Open Table or visit us at and make reservations there. Address: 621 Main St. Covington, Ky. 41011

-Staff report

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