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Bars, Restaurants in Covington Place "No Mask, No Service" Signs

"No mask, no service" signs are popping up in the doors and windows of Covington restaurants and bars, courtesy of the city's "Recover Covington" or ReCov campaign.

The fine print gives details: "Mask on when moving around. Remain seated while dining. Respect six feet apart."

Josh Rhodes, a former restaurant manager hired by the city to serve as a liaison with the industry during the pandemic, spent a day last week dropping off posters and encouraging restaurants to both display and enforce the message.

"This is what we need to do to stay open," Rhodes said. "We have been given many reasons to wear the mask - the most important being keeping everybody around us healthy and safe, including restaurant staff - but another reason is this: This is about restaurants and bars' economic survival."

City Solicitor Michael Bartlett, the city's ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) administrator, is reinforcing the message with a letter to bars. Bartlett said he immediately received several emails from owners thanking him for the letter and supporting its message.

One establishment posting the signs is Gypsy's bar in MainStrasse Village. Manager Jesse Kleinhenz said Gypsy's staff members have been wearing masks with no problems for months and have been asking customers to do so as well for a week now.

"It's important for us to stay open," Kleinhenz said. "We will do whatever it takes to maintain business and have people coming in our door. If it takes wearing a mask, that's what we'll do."

Customers simply wear the face coverings while entering the bar and ordering drinks, he said. When they sit down at a table to enjoy their drinks, they take their masks off. If they get up to use the restroom, they put them back on.

"It's an easy, effective way to protect each other and our staff," Kleinhenz said.

Gypsy's put the "masks required" signs on its door the day that Kentucky Andy Beshear announced the 30-day statewide mask mandate in Kentucky, and since then only a couple of people decided not to come in, he said.

"Really, we've had no problems," Kleinhenz said.

Assistant City Manager Bruce Applegate, the city's point person on the pandemic, said the message is relevant to all parts of Covington.

Earlier restrictions on businesses designed to slow the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 had a devastating effect on local businesses and employees, many of whom were furloughed or laid off, Applegate said.

"Separate from health considerations, many of our families have suffered some severe financial consequences over the last few months because of the economic slowdown," Applegate said. "As the economy slowly reopens, we don't want to go backward. Something as simple as wearing a mask and staying six feet or more from people outside your family can keep that from happening."

Governor Andy Beshear issued an executive order mandating masks in most public situations, which went into effect on July 10.

Locally, responsibility for enforcing the mandate falls on the Northern Kentucky Health Department.

But Covington officials say they're confident that regard for others - not fear of enforcement - is what will drive the public to wear a mask.

"One of the things that made me want to work and live in Covington was the sense of community I saw during my initial visits," Applegate said. "Now more than ever is the opportunity for residents to show they care for their neighbors and the employees who are keeping our favorite restaurants and other businesses open, simply by wearing a mask."

-Staff report

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