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Madison County bar owners fully expected restrictions that would affect their businesses to be put into place last week by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

“I saw it coming,” David Stanek said, of Water Main, which is located on Main Street.

Charley Hamilton saw it coming as well.

He had already sent out an e-mail to his employees informing them that Dreaming Creek Brewery would have to go back to carry-out only business.

"We had already told them," Hamilton said.

Those fears did indeed turn into a reality.

On July 27, Beshear announced that Kentucky bars would again be shutting their doors — this time for two weeks beginning on July 28 at 5 p.m.

This shutdown is the latest economic setback for local bars.

The businesses were closed for more than three months during a state-wide lockdown because of COVID-19 and many continue to struggle financially.

“Shutting down for two weeks … what is that going to affect?" Staneck asked.

Stanek, who owns Water Main along with Ken DeGrant III, shared his disappointment in the governor’s decision, stating their business was already hurting, and this shut down will only make things more difficult, especially for businesses which were already diligently following health department protocols.

“I can tell you from my business, we literally spray everything down, sanitize and re-sanitize, take temperatures and make sure our employees are tested regularly. It essentially almost feels like we’re being punished,” Stanek said.

DeGrant added that Water Main had already faced a major impact this spring when EKU announced students would be continuing the school year online. DeGrant said locals may not realize just how much the college affects small businesses.

“EKU also being shut down for the spring semester really hurt the type of customers that I attract — it affects other businesses when EKU is not thriving,” DeGrant said. “It’s been very hard on downtown and downtown businesses. It’s important — without your downtown eventually you’re gonna lose your brick and mortar stores. We’re losing out to corporations.”

DeGrant further questioned why stores which see large numbers of people per day, such as Walmart and Kroger, are allowed to remain operational when places like Water Main, whose capacity is much less, are forced to close down.

Dreaming Creek Brewery in Richmond was able to stay open during the state-wide shutdown, but was only able to offer beer on a carry-out basis.

After the business re-opened last month, they welcomed the public back inside their building.

Then, they encountered a serious issue.

After discovering a customer had entered the brewery with COVID-19, the business shut down voluntarily until all employees could be tested — twice.

"We have gone above and beyond what we are required to do," Hamilton said.

After that scare, Hamilton and co-owner Taryn Edington made a drastic change. They decided not to allow anyone to stay inside the building.

Customers could purchase beer by the drink, while wearing a mask, and consume it in designated places outside.

"We just decided to have no one inside," Hamilton said. "We are just fortunate enough that we had a big enough parking lot and plenty of picnic tables."

Those fortunate circumstances will allow them to stay open during this latest shutdown.

Dreaming Creek is allowed to have 25% capacity inside under the current guidelines, but the owners stuck with the model they have been using for several weeks.

"We were kind of ahead of the curve anyway a little bit," Hamilton said.

Dreaming Creek usually has a food truck set up in the parking lot and Hamilton is in the process of adding tents to make a small beer garden.

The business holds trivia and other events outside, with social distancing, and also plays host to the Madison County Farmer's Market on Thursday nights.

"People have been very receptive to it," Hamilton said. "It's a little warm. But, by the time everything gets going, everyone is in the shade."

The latest COVID-19 restrictions are also having an impact on other businesses that rely on alcohol sales.

Apollo Pizza, like most restaurants, is limited to only 25% seating capacity.

The business relies heavily on carryout and delivery orders, but also has a patio, which can remain open at this time.

Will White, a cook at Apollo Pizza, says the staff is aware the latest restrictions might last more than two weeks.

"We might go back to full shutdown, with 0% allowed indoors," White said. "We will do that if that's what we need to do."

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