Covington Expands Outdoor Seating for Bars, Restaurants
The City of Covington is expanding outdoor seating temporarily to assist seven restaurants and bars in the Roebling Point entertainment area and the central business district during this period of social distancing brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Changes on Court Street, Park Place, and Seventh Street between Washington Street and Madison Avenue will include lane closures, the removal of 15-minute carryout parking spots, and the relocation of other parking - although sometimes only for the evening hours.
The temporary changes are hoped to benefit Smoke Justis, Molly Malone's Irish Pub & Restaurant, Keystone Bar & Grill, Parlor on Seventh, Braxton Brewing Co., McK's Chicks, and Rich's Proper Food & Drink.
"The city is committed to using some public space, where possible, to help its small businesses survive," Economic Development Director Tom West explained. "The pandemic has limited indoor seating, so we're continuing to look for ways to expand 'safe' outdoor options."
The city's public works department has been working this week to install barriers around the new outdoor seating, and the spaces should be "fully functional" by Friday, if not before, said Josh Rhodes, a former restaurant manager hired by the city as a liaison with restaurant and bar owners during the pandemic.
"Speaking for the restaurants, they appreciate the city's collaboration on this," Rhodes said. "It's not being too dramatic to say this is a matter of survival for them. Even in a so-called 'normal' year, the summer season is always a critical time where they make the revenue that supports them the rest of the year. The pandemic has added to the urgency and anxiety. Expanding table space will be a big help."
City Manager David Johnston said the proposed changes and others like them were weighed carefully against an array of competing factors and issues, including the need for parking, traffic flow, the needs of surrounding retail businesses, public safety, walkability, and the restrictions of state-owned routes.
"It's not as easy as it sounds - in the tight-knit urban environment in which many of our neighborhood restaurants and bars are located, it's very difficult to carve out space that doesn't create other negative consequences, especially given that these two districts are adjacent to residential neighborhoods," he said. "Every location poses its own array of challenges, and we're doing what we can, where we can, on a case-by-case basis."
The temporary dining areas were authorized by an emergency executive order signed recently by Mayor Joe Meyer.