‘Liberated!’ Bars, restaurants and regulars celebrate end of health orders in NKY

Business as normal resumed across the commonwealth on Friday.
Published: Jun. 11, 2021 at 8:40 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Most COVID-19 restrictions are now officially lifted in Kentucky, and few are happier about that than the commonwealth’s restaurant and bar owners.

Masks are still required on public transportation, in schools, in long-term care facilities and at other locations that serve the most vulnerable, but the vast majority of Gov. Andy Beshear’s health orders were scrapped on the governor’s command on Friday.

More than a year spent navigating compliance with those health orders caused plenty of headaches among business owners. Many likened it to a roller coaster, and just as many are happy to be off the ride.

Bill Whitlow owns Rich’s Proper Food and Drink in Covington.

“We’re feeling pretty good,” Whitlow said. “We’ve been excited about this moment ever since they announced the date. We’ve been prepping for it.”

The excitement was palpable at Mainstrasse Village Pub as well, where bartender Luke Thornsbury says there’s a certain vibe in the air.

“We’re ready to get back to business as normal,” Thornsbury said.

That isn’t the so-called “new normal” some early in the pandemic believed would persist countrywide, envisioning continued restrictions, reduced capacities and enduring mask mandates for months, if not years.

“We’re pretty much going back to 100 percent occupancy,” Whitlow said.

Still, it won’t be an immediate snap back at places like Rich’s.

“We still haven’t put out all our tables yet, just because we want to slowly integrate that,” Whitlow said. “We don’t want to go from zero to a packed house, and then us not being used to it, because we haven’t done that in over a year.”

It was a year Whitlow calls the hardest of his life.

“Because we woke up one day, and I don’t have work to go to. Then it’s like, oh, you can go back, so we’re all just excited to get back to work. We’re welcoming our regulars back, our guests. We’re just excited to be here.”

For Rich’s regulars like Cold Spring resident Donna Eggemeier, it’s a breath of fresh air 18 months in the making.

“The pandemic, it really put a dampener on things, so we missed each other,” Eggemeier said. “We tried to gather on pandemic time outside when we could with distancing, but just not the same. So, we’re really happy we can be out. Just feels like we’re liberated!”

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