LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Between the boarded-up windows and turned up tables at restaurants in downtown Louisville, there are signs and sounds of new life.
Sheritha and Randy Towns are the owners of The Sauce, a new soul food and BBQ restaurant on 3rd St. in downtown Louisville. It occupies the space once filled by the 301 Bistro.
The restaurant’s grand opening is set for Aug. 24.
“We actually landed this spot in February, and great location, we just had to do a bunch of work to get it up and going then COVID happened,” Sheritha said. “We’re looking at health concerns with COVID-19. I don’t want to be in a situation where too many people are gathered together and someone gets sick.”
While the pandemic slowed their remodel and permits, the Towns are pushing ahead at a time when so many others can’t. They say they’ve taken the extra time to build out their outdoor seating and “beautify” the block where the restaurant sits.
“People still need to eat and we want to make them happy,” Randy said. “You know it’s always going to be a setback but as long as you stay focused and keep pushing ahead, I think it will come back together in a matter of time.”
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, with events canceled and offices closed, restaurants in Louisville have struggled, especially downtown. In the past two weeks restaurants like Dish on Market, Zoup! Eatery and Taco Luchador's downtown location have shut down.
Restaurants like the Old Spaghetti Factory have managed to stay afloat in part because it’s corporately owned. However, kitchen manager Steven Mueller said it’s hard to see smaller businesses shutter.
“It’s really unfortunate. It’s really unfortunate to see, especially a lot of mom and pop businesses,” said Mueller.
Mueller tells WAVE 3 business in the age of COVID-19 has been fluctuating and employee hours have been cut.
“We reopened for to-go orders in late April at some capacity and it was a little hesitant a first,” he said. “Then after some time, the to-go business did pick up and finally we were able to open for dine-in guests. Again, there was some hesitancy but we did start to see somewhat of an increase of guests at one point.”
The Old Spaghetti Factory usually draws massive dinner parties from events at the Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC) and Yum! Center nearby; both facilities have postponed upcoming events. Adding to the strain, restaurants in Kentucky are limited to 25% capacity indoors, although the Old Spaghetti Factory has added outdoor seating.
“We’re remaining optimistic and we’re doing the best we can, but I mean with all these closures going on it is taking a substantial amount of business away,” Mueller said.
Despite the grim outlook, the Towns are staying optimistic about their new venture. The couple even served free food to customers walking by Wednesday.
“A lot of the workers downtown asked us ‘When are you going to open?’” Sheritha said. “I was like, you know what, let’s just cook it and give it away. A lot of people donated money. People who work around here, the law offices, the convention center even the police stopped by. Everybody’s like we need this around here.”
The Towns say they are determined not to let their dreams go.
“Just a few people in the community giving hope, it will inspire a lot of other people to do the same,” Sheritha said.