#SupportLocal: Princeton retail, restaurants opening up again

Emerson Englebright, 16, of Caldwell County, cleans inside in Gather on Main. The restaurant at 106 E. Main St. is slated to reopen Tuesday morning. All restaurants were permitted to reopen Friday under Gov. Andy Beshear’s orders, though at limited indoor capacity.

Retail stores returned to business Wednesday and restaurants Friday, the beginning of Kentucky — and Princeton’s — attempt at getting back to something resembling normalcy in the era of COVID-19.

The openings were the next step in Gov. Andy Beshear’s multi-phase plan to reopen businesses to in-person and sit-down customer traffic.

The Princeton-Caldwell Chamber of Commerce has offered a roadmap for consumers to help mend the economy after pandemic closures crippled small employers for two months.

Executive Director Chad Oliver said residents can visit princetonkychamber.org and the “business directory” tab for a list of stores and restaurants where a dollar spent can be a dollar earned for the community.

“We just want everybody to come out and shop local, support local, and ease into this because things are going to be different,” Oliver said, adding each business could have “minor changes” from before.

It’s the closest return to routine yet for Princeton, which has strived in recent years to make its Main Street a commercial and social hub.

But right now businesses can’t exceed 33% capacity, and masks will remain a common sight.

“We hope everybody will just be patient going forward,” Oliver said. “It won’t go back to a normal situation yet, but we can support our business and economy and get this community back to thriving.”

Mayor Kota Young added his support to the Chamber on Wednesday on his official Facebook page, encouraging people to “come out and #supportlocal.”

“By doing so you are not only just supporting one business, you are supporting our entire community and ensuring that there will be future viability and opportunities for the next generation,” the mayor wrote.

Gather on Main owner Cathy Lewis said her new restaurant was abuzz with reopening plans after being open for “five full days before COVID-19 brought us to a screeching halt.”

Currently the eatery is receiving a deep cleaning and conducting sanitization training before opening to half-capacity Tuesday. Curbside pickup and carry-out will still be available.

“When your drink gets low, you’ll simply get a new glass. … This will minimize cross-contamination,” Lewis said, adding throwaway paper menus are another change for that reason. “We’re excited to be able to reopen and we’ve worked hard to make sure we’re doing it in a safe way for our customers and staff.”

In late April, the Caldwell County Fiscal Court approved a Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget for $6.9 million — a 6.1% decrease from last year’s pre-pandemic budget.

Judge-Executive Larry Curling said much of the decrease in revenue was from lower occupational tax receipts.