Gov. Andy Beshear previously announced the mask mandate largely ends on today, and restaurants are able to return to serving 100% capacity. For a few owners in Owensboro, this may be the first time they are seeing full capacity since reopening.
At Brew Bridge Brewery, Marketing Manager Nick Gray said starting a business in July 2020 was probably something people would describe as ill-advised. However, Gray said they have taken the time to work out the kinks.
“It ended up working in our favor, we were able to focus really on the production of beer, which is what we want to be known for and so that was really great,” Gray said.
Gray said the brewery is now averaging about one new brew a week and maintained a busy pace throughout the year.
Before with the capacity limits, Brew Bridge had to limit the amount of guests throughout their indoor dining and their outdoor patio. Gray said he is excited to be able to fill both the indoor and outdoor areas on Friday instead of splitting between the two.
When the Baha Men came to Friday After 5, it was a great night for the brewery because of their proximity to the Owensboro Convention Center. This Friday plans to be no different, as they host the official pre-party for PorchFest and open up for live music.
“It’s really exciting to say, ‘hey, here’s what we’ve been working on for the past year,’” Gray said.
Niko’s Bakery in the Wesleyan Park Plaza opened its doors in February 2020 just before the initial breakout of the coronavirus. When March 2020 came, Owner Matt Weafer said there were countless challenges, and every month was a different one.
Weafer said he and his wife were tasked immediately with not only being new business owners but also finding ways to adapt to the new world. They started pushing their online orders and drive-thru, and even became a butcher shop toward the beginning when there wasn’t much meat in grocery stores.
“We got a sense of what our customers needed. We got a sense of what we needed as a family, as people at home, and we tried to provide that,” Weafer said.
As the pandemic continued on he had to close the dine-in option of the bakery. For Niko’s, 50% capacity only meant 18 chairs in the dining room. So the slow addition of eight chairs wasn’t going to change the day-to-day, but he’s excited to get back to 100% capacity.
“The atmosphere, the emotions of people. Just knowing it’s 100%, makes everything feel different,” he said.
As Friday After 5 picks up downtown, Palmer Dempsey at Mile Wide Beer Co. said he has been thankful for the mask mandates to be decreasing the way they are.
Dempsey said when the mask mandate lifted for vaccinated individuals, he began to see a jump back into normalcy.
Since Mile Wide considers themself as a family oriented brewery, they saw more families and guests coming as they try to plan safe events.
“The first [Friday After 5] with the Baha Men, you know that it was probably the best Friday After 5 we’ve had in the 25 years, but it was by far one of our best days as a business,” Dempsey said.
He said upstairs they have a large connect four game, and he enjoys hearing the sounds of the pieces crashing on the floor and seeing his bartenders be able to work without having to enforce masks.
“Every single week we do better. Every week we get more people behind us, more people find out about us and know that we’re here,” Dempsey said. “Growth is growth, and we’ll take slow growth if that’s what it’s gonna take.”