A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington Business Council panelists talk about role and importance of independent restaurants

Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The Covington Business Council (CBC) Luncheon focused on the independent restaurant sector.

Panelists included local restaurant owners, Paul Weckman, owner of Ottos and Frida restaurants in Mainstrasse, Richard Dickmann, owner of Smoke Justis in Roebling Point and City of Covington Economic Development Director Tom West.

Moderator Tony Milburn (far left), Board Chair of the CBC Foundation, speaks with panelists at the June luncheon. Left to right are Richard Dickman, owner of Smoke Justis, Tom West, Covington economic development manager and Paul Weckman, owner of Ottos and Frida restaurants.

The luncheon took place at the Madison Event Center in Covington.

West said quality of place, which is somewhat different than the standard quality of life measures, is critical to economic development today.

“People no longer follow jobs, jobs follow people and today, the most talented workers seem to want to live in authentic, walkable, bikeable environments with lots of food entertainment and other amenities near their homes,” West said. “Mainstrasse, downtown and Roebling Point are really establishing themselves with exceptional quality of place identities.”

The availability of the independent restaurant helps neighborhoods establish an identity and is an important component to getting more people to live in Covington. The availability of a variety of food options, especially at the lunch hour encourages companies to locate in the Central Business District, Mainstrasse, and Latonia.

Tony Milburn, Board Chair of the CBC Foundation and a property owner and developer in Covington, led the discussion.

Weckman said a city’s restaurants not only employ a lot of people, but they help define a local community, When he arrived in Covington he said there were some rundown properties and that shaped perceptions of the city.

“All of a sudden a restaurant provides a new life to a building,” Weckman said. “That starts to add something to the streetscape of a neighborhood.”

A clean restaurant, with enthusiastic workers and fresh flowers on the table, he said, really can become the foundation of a vibrant neighborhood. People start to embrace being in the community, walking their dogs, picking up trash in the street and jut generally making it a better place to live and work.

Dickmann said from a business owner’s perspective, when looking to locate or relocate in a city, they weigh the amenities a community has to offer.

“That starts with restaurants,” Dickmann said. “It creates a life, a lively city. When you as a business, take advantage of the restaurants and bars in the city, you are actually adding to your business – your employees are happy, you have an opportunity to attract more employees.”

West said one of Covington’s greatest qualities that some other high profile redevelopment areas in Greater Cincinnati may be missing, is its authentic urban grit and quirkiness.

“We have white tablecloth restaurants opening alongside sustainable diners and even our dive bars and restaurants are part of the appeal here,” West said. “Because of our diverse population, we want to assure we have places for people of every walk of life to feel comfortable living, dining and just hanging out.”

The monthly Covington Business Council Luncheon provides opportunities for members to interact with each other, as well elected officials and community leaders. Luncheons generally include a presentation or panel discussion on a topic of interest to the community and usually take place at the Madison Event Center in Covington.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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