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Panel discussion will discuss bars and restaurants to help boost Covington’s economy

The Covington Business Council hosted a three-person panel discussion to discuss how the city’s bars and restaurants are boosting the economy.

Julie Kirkpatrick, President and CEO of meetNKY, moderated the discussion between Bill Whitlow of Rich’s Proper Foods; Kimberly Rossetti, head of Tri-Ed’s economic development team; and Josh Neiderhelman, director of CURŌ – the real estate investment firm behind Covington Yard.

Kirkpatrick began the discussion by noting that Covington’s eight hotels are gradually being booked – which she attributes to the more than 96 restaurants in town that they could count, excluding fast food restaurants.

“When we think of bars and restaurants, we see that they are huge tourist attractions,” said Kirkpatrick.

Regarding the projects he invests in, Neiderhelman said his primary focus is on finding businesses and companies that will improve the area and build an experience. Whitlow announced that he is still in Covington.

“This area was crazy for me,” said Whitlow. “To be honest, I didn’t know Covington that well and I didn’t plan to stay here that long. Ten years later you couldn’t tear me out of this town.”

Rossetti added that she thinks the local restaurants and bars are amazing and loves to see Covington’s talent grow and nurture the city.

Neiderhelman said that in his opinion Covington has not yet reached its full potential and that it will continue to grow as the community overcomes challenges, particularly COVID.

“We wanted a place that was that simple, family-friendly, kid-friendly, dog-friendly,” he said, referring to Covington Yard. “What started as a food truck park became a container park.”

Neiderhelman went on to say that people congratulated him on the great idea of ​​opening an outdoor bar during a pandemic – unaware that the project had started many months earlier.

Borrowing from this thought, Whitlow mentioned that ad -tability was what led to his success.

“You learn from mistakes and I’ve learned a lot,” said Whitlow.

Rossetti continued the thought by saying that when choosing a location, companies looking to relocate are now primarily asking what to do in the area. Previously, the most important questions related to utilities, site size, and population demogr -hics, while owners are now looking for a livelier lifestyle for themselves, their employees, and their customers.

Neiderhelman explained the growth of a community in phases, saying that phase one started when a new restaurant or bar moves in and becomes successful, phase two was when more restaurants moved in and building on that dynamic, and phase three is “okay where is now? the  -plebee’s? “.

Then he went on to talk about challenges, saying facility construction and refurbishment had started to grow to astronomical levels, citing that an industrial building used to cost $ 7 million and is now $ 15 million. He also said that some of the prices are not fixed. The inability to accurately price all aspects of a project requires a huge contingency budget from investors and business owners.

One of the challenges Whitlow mentioned in the discussion was the stress of staying open and operational during the pandemic and how little support there was to relieve that stress.

“I woke up, went to work, and tried to figure out a way to get through the pandemic,” said Whitlow. “It stressed the whole family. I don’t even know how I would have dealt with it if I’d had kids.”

“Lots of wine,” replied Rossetti.

-Connor Wall, associate editor

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