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NKY Restaurant Relief Grants Announced

Three Northern Kentucky organizations are organizing a relief effort for local restaurants hard hit by the COVID-19 global pandemic that forced many to close completely and others to reduce their business capabilities to carryout or delivery.

The NKY Restaurant Relief Fund was announced Wednesday by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, and Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky.

The program will grant $1,000 to select local restaurants.

The way it works is, a customer purchases at least $50 in gift cards from a restaurant or bar from anywhere in a nine-county Northern Kentucky area. A receipt from that purchase is then uploaded to the Restaurant Relief website, which will automatically nominate that establishment for one of ten $1,000 grants to be awarded weekly.

The grant recipients will be chosen via a random drawing. Restaurants and bars will receive an entry for each receipt uploaded, and a selected restaurant/bar can only receive a grant once. Restaurants must be locally-owned and -operated to be eligible.

Initially, ten grants will be awarded on Thursday, April 16 and again on Thursday, April 23, during the NKY Chamber’s weekly podcast, Northern Kentucky Spotlight with Kathrine Nero. Tri-ED President and CEO Lee Crume, Horizon Community Funds President Nancy Grayson, and NKY Chamber President and CEO Brent Cooper will join Nero to announce the ten Northern Kentucky restaurants and bars receiving the grants (as long as funds last).

Horizon Community Funds will act as the 501(c)(3) organization receiving all donated funds with NKY Tri-ED assisting and serving as the program’s administrator. The NKY Chamber will lead the fundraising effort for the NKY Restaurant Relief Fund. The fund seeks to raise a minimum of $20,000 and in excess of $50,000 through donations from businesses and individuals during the next two weeks. Direct contributions to the fund can also be made by visiting Horizon Community Funds’ website,

Cooper hopes the entire Northern Kentucky region will embrace the program, and in doing so, show the strength and compassion that will help local restaurants persevere.

“A time of unprecedented hardship calls for an unprecedented response. With the NKY Restaurant Relief Fund, we call on all residents and businesses of the region that are able to showcase the Team Kentucky spirit that makes us unique,” said Cooper. “The Chamber’s number one goal is to support strong businesses. Now, the time has come to show how strong our region is by extending that same courtesy to our restaurant partners.”

Crume and Grayson agree.

“The NKY Restaurant Relief grants are meant to bring a quick infusion of cash to restaurants and bars through gift card purchases and the twenty $1,000 grants we’ll award over the next two weeks,” shared Lee Crume, President & CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED. “We know these small businesses have suffered tremendously and we want to provide hope and funds to these entrepreneurs.”

“The NKY Restaurant Relief effort is another way for our community to help make a difference during these challenging times,” said Horizon Community Funds President Nancy Grayson. “Our local restaurants not only provide us with food, but places to do business, celebrate special occasions and create lasting memories. Now, we can thank them by showing the legacy of our community is how we help our family and friends in their greatest time of need.”

Bill Whitlow, owner of Rich’s Proper Food and Drink with his wife Morgan, find the announcement of the fund inspired.

“We appreciate everything that the NKY Chamber and others have done for businesses in the region. Every dollar that comes in helps us stay open, keep our employees working and keep the vibe alive,” Whitlow said. “We’re all coming together, we’re all helping each other. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has hurt so many entrepreneurs across the nation, with restaurants and bars being one of the first industries impacted. For servers and bartenders, tips are now not available, which can be extremely crippling,” said Yavonne Sarber, Founder of Agave & Rye. “As a restaurant owner, it’s heartbreaking to experience. For our own team, it was clear: if we weren’t able to serve guests in our restaurants, we had to do something… and, despite the challenges so many of us are facing, we’ve found unique ways to band together, reach out to the community and encourage others to do the same. Most recently, our carry out availability has brought hope back to our team, as well as our team back to the community!”

“Gift cards have been a way for us to keep in touch with our customers, we love seeing their names come through,” said Sandy Meyer of Blinker’s Tavern. “It’s the way we’re staying connected. Every bit helps.”

“Gift cards have kept us afloat during these trying times and helped us make sure we could make payroll,” said Fran Kusala of the Farmstand Market & Café. “We appreciate what they’ve done so far and we hope their generosity continues. Our gift cards are available online but we mail them out the old-fashioned way – so there may be a delay in customers receiving them.”

-Staff report