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Covington caterer partners with local businesses for food endeavors


After moving to Covington a few months ago, Four Seasons Catering is embedding itself in the local community by partnering with emerging businesses.

On Jan. 15, Four Seasons will take over the food service at Gateway Community & Technical College and create a gourmet but affordable menu for students and faculty. They’re also working on a menu for Braxton Brewery, which is slated to open this spring. And soon customers will be able to stop in at Four Seasons' storefront location and try items from Braxton’s upcoming menu.
 
The new location is 11 W. Seventh St. in downtown Covington, after Four Seasons opened in Florence two and a half years ago. The caterer did over 100 weddings, corporate events and private parties last year and has even more in the works for 2015.
 
“When we moved to Covington, we saw the renaissance happening here and wanted to be part of that,” says chef and owner Michael Gayon. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, where he studied to be a saucier, and has worked in a number of high-end restaurants in NYC and Seattle.
 
The storefront contains a 1,200-square-foot commercial kitchen, a front-of-the-house meeting room for clients and a to-go-only deli and bakery. The menu features soups, salads, sandwiches and baked goods made by Gayon’s wife, Melinda. Her specialty is a cinnamon roll that Gayon says is "to die for."

Four Seasons is also working on creating other local partnerships, including with a local limousine company for VIP jet service, and will continue creating pastries and soups for Left Bank Coffeehouse, with the hopes of expanding the shop’s food offerings. 
 
Gayon also plans to host two "flash kitchen" dinners. The first, Chill, is on July 31 and will feature a 10-course meal of gourmet iced foods. The second, Dark, is set for Dec. 31, when guests will be seated and then all the lights turned off. Servers will have on night vision goggles, and all of the food will be eaten without utensils.
 
“These dinners are a blast,” Gayon says. “It’s fun to mess with people’s minds and to serve something like grilled watermelon cut into different shapes.”
 
Four Seasons’ deli is currently open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. During the summer, it will be open on Saturdays, too, with expanded hours when Braxton opens.
 

E+O Kitchen opening in popular Hyde Park spot


The restaurant most recently known as Dancing Wasabi will soon be a new concept when E+O Kitchen, whose name is taken from Chicago-based Chef Rodelio Aglibot’s restaurant Earth and Ocean, opens later this month.
 
The restaurant, located at 3520 Edwards Road off Hyde Park Square, has seen a number of different concepts in the past few years, including Beluga and sushi restaurant Dancing Wasabi. Owners Mike Hama and Lee and Nick Grammas like to redesign the space every few years to keep things interesting.
 
Aglibot is designing the menu, which will be Asian-inspired with a Latin flare. Local Chef Owen Maass will head up the kitchen. He's the former chef at Cumin in Hyde Park and is returning to town after a stint in Columbus.
 
The restaurant space is being redesigned to let in more light and will be more organic and rustic looking. The building used to be a house, and the ceilings have been raised and the windows have been opened up.
 
E+O Kitchen will serve lunch, brunch and dinner and will have a moderately priced menu.
 

Circus Mojo bringing another brewery to Northern Kentucky


Paul Miller, owner of Circus Mojo in Ludlow, Ky., is once again driving economic development in the city. This spring, he plans to open Bircus Brewing Co., which will combine the circus with a brewery.
 
Miller got the idea for a bircus after visiting Ghent, Belgium, where performers at Circusplaneet earn money to operate their circus by selling beer. He got permission to license the concept and plans to use Belgian-inspired recipes for Bircus beer.
 
He also partnered with Marc Wendt of BrandFuel Co. to design the Bircus concept from the ground up.
 
When Miller bought the old Ludlow Theater five years ago, there wasn’t much going on Ludlow — there wasn’t even a grocery store. Now, there’s a grocery store, a new art gallery, two coffee shops, three restaurants and a soon-to-be distillery.
 
“Ludlow used to have more bars than anywhere in Greater Cincinnati,” Miller says. “It was a railroad town, and there were three different shifts on the railroad, with about 10 bars that workers frequented. We want Bircus to be a place where people come and can find a beer that they like, a beer for the every man.”  
 
Bircus will take over part of the theater, which is the current home of Circus Mojo. Miller also owns an old church around the corner from the theater, and he plans to move the Institute of Social Circus to the church to make room for the brewery and taproom.
 
In order to open the brewery, a number of renovations need to be done to the theater, including installing a ticket booth and marquee out front, putting on a new roof and creating a VIP balcony for private events in the old projection booth. Miller says that not much needs to be done to the building’s interior because it was a factory after the movie theater closed and was stripped down to the bones.
 
Miller recently got the building on the National Register of History Places. Because of that designation, Bircus will receive state and federal historic tax credits for renovation purposes. Miller also was approved by the Kentucky Department of Transportation for a tourism development loan to help with the project.
 
Ten percent of the profits from Bircus will be donated to the Social Circus Fund, which helps underwrite programs for children in Ludlow, nursing homes and hospitals. Bircus will also help bring more circus performers to the area, and Miller hopes to sell enough beer to bring a circus from Belgium to Ludlow.

And the bar or restaurant that sells the most Bircus beer during a given period will get a visit from Circus Mojo performers.
 
“I want to drive more international traffic to Greater Cincinnati,” Miller says. “I want to keep leveraging unique opportunities and expertise.”
 
Bircus is still looking for a brewmaster, and Miller is planning to hold interviews on Jan. 31.
 

Northside's Barrio Tequileria changes owners, updates menu


Northside’s Barrio Tequileria opened in spring 2013 but closed after just a few months in business. Chuck Eberle and Thomas Placke recently reopened the restaurant and have updated the menu to include Tex-Mex favorites.
 
“Over the last 12 years, we’ve formed a bond over our love of food and drink and the different cultures they’re associated with,” Placke says. He and Eberle own 3TC Entertainment Group, Barrio’s parent company.
 
The pair revamped the menu to feature Tex-Mex dishes that combine items from the past owner’s menu with Texas-style favorites. Menu highlights include a build-your-own Barrio — a half-pound burger, grilled chicken breast or black bean veggie burger with a variety of toppings — as well as pulled pork and smoked beef brisket sandwiches, with the option of adding the smoked meat to tacos, nachos, quesadillas and burritos.
 
Barrio still has a wide variety of tequila and specialty cocktails, but Eberle and Placke also added local and national craft beers in cans, bottles and drafts, which will rotate often. 
 
Barrio will also feature local artists and bands on the weekends as well as weekly open mic jazz night on Tuesday, trivia on Wednesday and karaoke on Thursday. Brunch will soon be served on Saturday and Sunday, featuring bloody Mary/Maria, margarita, mimosa and belini specials, plus an add-your-own-garnish bar. The patio is dog-friendly and has giant Jenga, Connect 4 and cornhole. There’s also a roast your own s’mores dessert menu and dog-bone shaped treat menu for the pups.
 
“The excitement in Northside’s South Block area is growing tremendously, with the grand reopening of Barrio along with The Littlefield and soon-to-be Arcade Legacy and Tajine sandwich shop,” Placke says of the neighborhood's stretch of Spring Grove Avenue. “We hope to continue to add to this excitement.”
 

Goodfellas Pizzeria now open on Main Street in OTR


Eric Boggs and Alex Coats, owners of Goodfellas Pizzeria, opened their newest restaurant at 1211 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine on New Year’s Eve. They also have two locations in their native Lexington and one in Covington.
 
Goodfellas OTR is in the former Mayberry space, which was completely gutted and renovated by Urban Expansion. A second floor was added, and the attic was turned into a mezzanine. There’s also a two-level outdoor patio and bar, with a bar on the ground floor.
 
The bar is designed like a 1920s speakeasy, with bourbon barrels and old crates used as decoration throughout the restaurant. Goodfellas specializes in pre-Prohibition-style cocktails and whiskey as well as pizza. The three bars will also feature craft beer.
 
Coats’ family is from Long Island, N.Y., and the pizza served at Goodfellas is New York-style — it’s made with hand-tossed crust, fresh ingredients and homemade sauce. Pizza can be purchased by the slice or in whole pies.
 
Goodfellas also has an ice program, which includes flavored ice, different types of ice and big blocks of ice that are chipped away at to chill drinks.  
 
Goodfellas is open from 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday-Sunday. Lunch specials Monday-Friday include a slice of pizza, a side and a drink for $6.
 

Cincinnati's beer culture still on the rise


Greater Cincinnati has become a craft beer Mecca in recent years. The last quarter of 2014 has seen much of that growth, with new breweries and bottle shops popping up all over the city. The local demand for craft beer is driving growth, of course, but so is each brewer’s passion for making beer.
 
With extended family in town for the holidays, this might be the perfect time to check out some of these places.
 
Blank Slate Brewing Company
4233 Airport Road, East End

Started in 2011 by Scott LaFollette, Blank Slate has grown from a draft-only distribution operation into a taproom. PourHouse opened in late November and features eight rotating taps.
 
The Growler House
1526 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills
The Growler House features 40 taps, 20 of which are dedicated to local breweries. It opened Dec. 2 and allows customers to stop in, sample a beer and then have a pint or fill up a 64-oz. growler to take home.
 
River Ghost
Erlanger, Ky.
Rhinegeist just launched distribution in Northern Kentucky and will be delivering to restaurants and grocery stores in the region. River Ghost will also be delivering wine from an undisclosed customer and plans to distribute beer from other local craft breweries in the near future.
 
Tap and Screw Brewery
5060 Crookshank Road, Covedale
The owners of Tom & Jerry’s Sports Bar added a brewery and taproom onto their existing restaurant. Tap and Screw opened to the public on Dec. 19 and will feature craft beer and local wines. The restaurant revamped its menu, and because the restaurant already has a liquor license the taproom also has a full bar.
 
Keep an eye out for the following ventures, too. They’re not open yet, but there's already a lot of buzz surrounding these spots.
 
Braxton Brewery
27 W. Seventh St., Covington
Evan Rouse, a six-year homebrewer, and brewing veteran Richard Dube are the masterminds behind Braxton Brewery. They plan to have 15-20 beers on tap, with both core and seasonal beers. The opening date is still up in the air, but early 2015 is the plan.
 
Casual Pint
Location TBD
Tennessee-based Casual Pint will offer 30 rotating taps of local and regional beers, which will be available by the pint or in growlers to take home. The food menu will include bar food staples like soft pretzels with beer cheese and wings. It’s slated to open in the third quarter of 2015 and will be the first location outside of Tennessee.
 
DogBerry Brewing
7865 Cincinnati Dayton Road, West Chester
Cincinnati’s first nanobrewery plans to open in the next few weeks. DogBerry will have 10 beers on tap, including their year-round rye pale ale, IPA, Kolsch, brown ale, blonde ale and five seasonals.
 
Fibonacci Brewing Company
1445 Compton Road, Mt. Healthy
Labeled as an ultranano brewery, Fibonacci will have a one-barrel system that will allow for about 300 beers per batch. Owners Bob and Betty Bollas plan to have an Imperial IPA, a Kolsch and an Imperial Stout on tap to start with when the taproom and brewery open in the spring.
 
Geo. Wiedemann Brewing Co.
530 York St., Newport
Wiedemann beer recently came back on the market when Jon Newberry bought the brand rights. He plans to open a brewery and taproom in Newport’s WaterTower Square, which he hopes to have up and running by Reds Opening Day 2015.
 

12 Cincinnati projects receive $30 million in state historic tax credits


Across the state, a total of $41.8 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits was awarded to 31 organizations that plan to rehabilitate 35 historic buildings. Projects range from new office, hotel, retail and event spaces to 792 new market-rate housing units and the preservation of 279 affordable housing units.

Twelve Cincinnati projects were granted almost $30 million in state historic tax credits, with the bulk going to the Music Hall renovation project.

51 E. Clifton Ave., Over-the-Rhine
Project cost: $750,000
Tax credit: $147,000
Built in 1890 as tenement housing for the workers at OTR’s breweries and other industries, the building has been vacant for a number of years. It will be redeveloped into seven market-rate apartments.

1200 and 1208 Main St., OTR
Project cost: $3,231,129
Tax credit: $320,000
Wurst & Lorentz opened a “fancy goods store” in 1887 at 1200 Main St. The property has housed a number of dry goods, millinery and butcher shops and is currently vacant. Urban Sites plans to redevelop the two buildings into 19 apartments with first-floor retail space.

1317 Republic St., OTR
Project cost: 1,494,669
Tax credit: $199,000
Built in 1878, the Greek Revival building has been vacant for several years. Grandin Properties plans to redevelop the first three floors of the building into six apartments.

1319 Republic St., OTR
Project cost: $1,494,669
Tax credit: $199,000
Also built in 1878, this building is the twin of 1317 Republic St. Grandin Properties will redevelop the vacant site into six apartments, and both projects will complement others from the company in the block, including the former Emanuel Community Center and two buildings on 13th Street.

1405 Clay St., OTR
Project cost: $1,101,746
Tax credit: $180,000
Built between 1885 and 1890, the currently vacant property will be rehabbed into four apartments and first-floor retail by Urban Sites.

4089 Langland St., Northside
Project cost: $770,760
Tax credit: $150,000
This building once housed a café and boarding house but was most recently used by a lumber company. It’s been vacant since 2005 and will eventually house Wire & Twine Design Studios and a coworking space as well as two residential units.

Ambassador Apartments, 722 Gholson Ave. and 3415 Reading Road, Avondale
Project cost: $9,410,866
Tax credit: $913,751
Opened in 1929, Ambassador Apartments has been challenged with a number of maintenance issues. The Community Builders recently acquired the property and plans to renovate the 18 units so they can continue to be affordable housing.

Cincinnati Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., OTR
Project cost: $127,500,000
Tax credit: $25 million
The national historic landmark was dedicated during Cincinnati’s fourth May Festival in 1878 and is home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera and May Festival and is managed by Cincinnati Arts Association. Rehab plans include upgrading building systems and handicap accessibility, improving operational efficiency and reopening and refreshing the exterior facades in order to increase the number of events held in the space.

Crescent Court Apartments, 3719 Reading Road, Avondale
Project cost: $8,370,356
Tax credit: $249,999
Built in 1911, Crescent Court Apartments was recently acquired by The Community Builders. The 37 affordable housing units will be redeveloped as part of a larger project planned for the neighborhood.

Heberle School, 2015 Freeman Ave., West End
Project cost: $11,189,704
Tax credit: $1,834,000
The Heberle School is one of several vacant schools in the neighborhood and will be converted into 59 apartments. It’s the first project in the West End to utilize state historic tax credits.

Poinciana Apartments, 3522 and 3639 Reading Road; 610 and 615 Maple Ave., Avondale
Project cost: $20,279,443
Tax credit: $440,202
Built in 1908, The Community Builders will redevelop the 44-unit building as part of a larger project in the neighborhood. Along with three other properties, the project will yield clean, safe, affordable housing.

Somerset Apartments, 802 Blair Ave., Avondale
Project cost: $5,892,147
Tax credit: $249,999
The apartments were built in 1869, and The Community Builders will rehab and preserve the existing 30 apartments.  
 

Kentucky-based juice bar opens shop in Hyde Park Square


Kimmye Bohannon discovered cold-pressed juices after running a marathon in New York City. She began juicing at home and started The Weekly Juicery out of her kitchen two years ago. She now owns three locations — one each in Lexington and Louisville and the newest on Hyde Park Square, which opened Dec. 6.
 
“It’s a wonderful experience to have cold-pressed juice available, and I feel so much better after drinking it,” she says. “Starting my business has been a way to make juicing available to a broader audience.”
 
The Weekly Juicery has 16 different cold-pressed juices, and the average price is $9 for a 16-oz. serving. Some of the juices are for veteran juice drinkers who are used to drinking vegetables, and others are more transitional and geared toward those who are new to juicing. The Orange You Happy has an orange juice flavor, which enhances the taste of the beets in it.
 
Each cold-pressed juice comes with a 30-minute education session, which customers can utilize before or after drinking their juice.
 
“Everyone who works at the juice bars are certified juice guides who understand the juicing process,” Bohannon says. “It’s all about education and making the transition to a healthier way of living.”
 
The menu also features a variety of raw foods, including a vegan veggie wrap, sweet potato hummus and a made-to-order salad bar with vegan dressing. There’s also super food oatmeal for breakfast. Bohannon plans to have kombucha on tap in 2015.
 
The Weekly Juicery also offers three levels of customized juice cleanses: a beginner, middle and deep detox. There’s also a juice delivery service, which is how Bohannon first started out. Among the three locations in Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati, she has about 200 customers who use the delivery service.
 
“We want to make juice convenient for busy people,” Bohannon says. “We also want to teach lots of people about the health elevation of drinking juice every day. You can feel better, have more energy, and give your body the fuel that’s designed to make it perform at an optimal level. So many people operate somewhere in the middle, and they don’t know what it feels like to feel really good. We want to teach them what it feels like to be there.”
 
Currently The Weekly Juicery is open 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sunday-Saturday, but based on business trends Bohannon says the hours may change. The store is at 2727 Erie Ave.
 

New housing development coming to Northside


Northside’s first new housing development since the American Can Lofts in 2012 is under construction. The Gantry, located at 4100 Hamilton Ave., will bring 131 apartments to the neighborhood.

With Northside's business district continuing to stabilize, The Gantry will help bring more residents and foot traffic to the area. Most of Northside's housing stock is circa 1950s, and land for new developments is hard to come by in the neighborhood.
 
The $16 million project involves redeveloping the site formerly occupied by the Myron G. Johnson & Son Lumber Co., which closed in the early 2000s. The city purchased the land parcel in 2006, and Indianapolis-based Milhaus Construction was chosen as the developer after a request for proposals in 2012.
 
The mixed-use project will include three separate buildings: two four-story buildings and a three-story building at 1518 Knowlton St., which was the home of a bowling alley and pool hall. There will also be 8,000 square feet of retail space, which will bring a number of new businesses to the Hamilton Avenue business district.

Apartments will range from 400 square feet to 1,100 square feet, and prices will range from $600 to $1,600 per month. The LEED Silver-certified apartments are expected to be ready by next summer.   
 

Pedal Wagon, Halfcut owner opens coworking space in OTR


Jack Heekin, owner of Over-the-Rhine’s Pedal Wagon and Halfcut, recently opened up a coworking space dubbed The Office attached to Halfcut at 12th and Walnut Streets. Gomez Salsa, Push Pull Studios, Squirrel Films and Venn have joined Halfcut and the Pedal Wagon so far, and Heekin says there’s an open door policy.
 
“People are always coming in and out, and more and more people are asking about using it,” he says. "The Office is definitely open to whoever wants to use it."
 
Heekin says The Office evolved on its own: As he opened Halfcut and his friend from high school, Andrew Gomez, opened Gomez Salsa next door, they each realized they needed an office. They turned Halfcut’s storage space into The Office — it’s between the kitchen, which Gomez Salsa uses, and Halfcut’s bar.
 
The space has slowly developed into a place for friends and friends of friends to come in and work together.
 
The bottom floor is just under 1,000 square feet and has a lounge area for meetings as well as a ping pong table for hanging out. The second floor is about 300 square feet, with a number of desks for companies to work at and share ideas.
 
“The Office will help add to the big picture and overall success of Cincinnati,” Heekin says. “If another startup needs help with something, you’ll be able to get it, as well as pitch ideas and collaborate with others.”
 

Lifelong musician/artist Waller opens downtown art gallery


You might know Dick Waller from his 34 years as principal clarinetist for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra or the Linton Music Series, but you might not know that he’s also a painter. Waller, 85, opened an art gallery and studio in November, Dick Waller’s Art Place.
 
Two years ago, Waller showed 150 paintings at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center and realized if he wanted to continue doing shows of that size he needed a larger space. He found the building at 130 W. Court St. about a year ago, and with the help of the building’s landlord he's transformed the space into an inviting gallery that feels like a living room.
 
The 2,000-square-foot gallery includes a cozy seating area in the middle and studio in the rear of the space. Waller says he spends four or five nights a week there for about five hours, creating new pieces. Each of his 290 pieces look as if they're alive, which can be contributed to the fact that he listens to classical music as he paints. And if he doesn't like something, he brushes it off, leaving a unique combination of colors.
 
“At 20, I went to an art exhibit in New York and became enthralled,” Waller says. “I went home and created my first painting in my basement, which my daughter has hanging in her house.”
 
Unlike Waller’s more recent work, his daughter Margy calls the first piece “Paris Metro.” The rest of his paintings are titled “Contrasts” after a piece he loved to play by the same name. Waller then numbers each piece with Roman Numerals, much like symphony opuses. That way, when they’re set up in the gallery viewers can enjoy them how they wish.
 
Waller was on the leading edge of audience development for classical music locally, starting the 801 Plum Concerts, which aimed to get young professionals interested in classical music, as well as Peanut Butter and Jams for children ages 3-6 and their parents. And now he’s on the leading edge of helping to develop a new neighborhood.
 
Waller wants the gallery to be a community space where people gather for coffee and hang out. He plans to host events, both large and small, as well as hold meetings for the Cincinnati Abstract Art Group. 
 
“I want to help bring life to this area,” he says. “It’s a new frontier, and I see it being a very live place in the next few years.”
 

Article owners opening women's wear shop


Anthony Graziani and his wife opened the men’s clothing store Article in Over-the-Rhine last September. And after positive customer response and continued development on Vine Street, they're opening a second shop, Idlewild Woman, just down the block.
 
“We’re still in the startup mode with Article, but there’s so much promise in the neighborhood we decided to take the leap and open a second store,” Graziani says. “The credit really goes to Cincinnati and the renaissance going on right now.”
 
The 1,000-square-foot space at 1232 Vine St. is currently serving as a holiday pop-up shop for Idlewild and Fern Studio, but by April it will be 100 percent Idlewild.
 
“People really like that Article is dialed into what men are looking for as far as a shopping experience,” Graziani says. “We plan to do the same thing with Idlewild.”
 
Graziani also found that female shoppers were looking for that same type of retail experience that Article offers. He received lots of feedback from female customers shopping at Article either for the man in their life or for themselves. As fit jeans, oversized sweaters and menswear-inspired work pieces have become more popular, female shoppers have begun to frequent Article more and more.
 
Idlewild will have items that aren’t necessarily on-trend but are classic. Graziani is focusing the retail options on brands not currently available in Cincinnati and is working to create a women’s general store with a wide variety of items rather than a boutique.
 
Currently, the pop-up shop features goods from a variety of designers, including Imogene and Willie, Baldwin Denim, Steven Alan, Objects Without Meaning, Faherty, Almond, Billy Kirk, Shinola, Tiro Tiro, Another Feather, Mazama, Jacobsen Salt, Herbivore Botanicals and Mast Brothers Chocolate. Additional brands will be added throughout the holiday season, and many of the brands will become Idlewild staples.
 
Where Article sells Noble Denim, Graziani says he hasn’t found a regional designer like it that makes women’s denim, although there’s probably one out there that does.
 
“We’re trying to support regional manufacturers as much as we can, and the majority of the designers we carry manufacture their products here in the States,” he says. “But our focus is really on quality, not necessarily where it’s made.”
 
The holiday pop-up shop is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays in December. Deeper Roots Coffee is on-site 11 a.m.-3 p.m. serving pour-over coffee, and there are also nightly wine tastings.
 

Covington looking to the community to redevelop properties

The City of Covington launched its Community Developer Initiative last week to seek out residents to redevelop blighted or vacant properties. Residents or business owners will choose vacant properties they’re interested in rehabilitating, and the city will decide if it can foreclose on the property or acquire it through other means.
 
The community developers will then purchase their chosen property from the city once it's been acquired. The developer will also cover the foreclosure costs.
 
Eight community developers will be redeveloping 17 properties in the first phase of the program. Each developer has agreed to pay the cost of bringing foreclosure action and to purchase the property from the city for a predetermined price.
 
Properties included in the first phase of the program are 2024 Donaldson Ave., 709 Greer St., 1110 Holman Ave., 2245 Jo Ann Place, 3512 Lincoln Ave., 307 Orchard St., 309 Orchard St., 622 Philadelphia St., 830 Philadelphia St., 232 E. Robbins St., 302 Robbins St., 310 Robbins St., 243 E. Tenth St., 306 W. Twelfth St., 322 W. Twelfth St., 324 W. Twelfth St. and 901 Worth St.

The Center for Great Neighborhoods is purchasing nine of the 17 properties and plan to rehabilitate the houses and then put them up for sale.
 
Covington is home to about 800 vacant properties — some are rundown houses, others are empty lots. These properties cost the city more than $800,000 per year to maintain or demolish, and some have been vacant for more than 20 years.
 
If you’re interested in the Community Developer Initiative, contact the City of Covington at 859-292-2311.
 
 

Turn-of-the-century bar coming soon to Northside

The Northside building most recently occupied by The Serpent will open as Tillie’s Lounge in February and feature champagne cocktails, craft beer, wine, premium snacks and bite-sized desserts sourced from a local bakery.
 
The building, located at 4042 Hamilton Ave., was built in 1881 for Droege Shoes and remained a cobbler for over 75 years. It’s been vacant since The Serpent closed and has seen a makeover, since the inside was previously all black.
 
Tillie’s will incorporate Northside’s history as well, and the champagne cocktails will be named for neighborhood nostalgia. For example, The Walk-Over, which is named for one of Tillie’s tricks, is made with raspberry vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and pomegranate juice.
 
The bar is being named after Tillie the elephant, one of the exotic animals from John Robinson’s Circus, which performed at the intersection of Blue Rock and Hamilton in the early 20th century. Tillie is known for stopping an elephant stampede and a derailed streetcar, and when she died schools were closed so the children could attend her funeral.
 
Tillie’s won’t be circus-themed but will be period-themed. Owners Nigel Cotterill and JC Diaz, who also own Below Zero Lounge, are working with Dwellings on Madison to give the bar a turn-of-the-century feel. The space will feature a baby grand piano and TVs and will host local and national music acts.
 

Previously vacant Covington space welcomes new restaurant


You’ve probably heard the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, and by January you’ll get to experience the tale in a new way. Avram and Kristin Steuber teamed up with BLDG to create the concept for their new restaurant, The Gruff Pizzeria & Deli, which is opening at 129 E. Second St. in Covington.
 
“As the experience is carried out through the space, you’ll see the Three Billy Goats have landed where the grass is greener, on the other side of the suspension bridge,” Kristin says.
 
On the inside, the 4,500-square-foot restaurant has eight taps for craft beer as well as a full-service bar. The 75-seat dining room has views of the Roebling Bridge, and there’s an outside seating area for about 30. The outside of the building features a brightly colored mural, and the walls inside have lines from the "Three Billy Goats Gruff" fairy tale.
 
The Steubers aren’t new to the restaurant business, as they owned and ran Twin Bistro, also in Covington, for over four years. The Gruff occupies a larger space than Twin Bistro and is part restaurant, part deli and specialty shop.
 
The Gruff has a brick oven for pizza, and the menu will be rounded out with deli-inspired sandwiches and salads. All of the meat featured on the menu is sourced from Indianapolis-based The Smoking Goose Meatery and are nitrate-free and available by the pound at the deli. Sandwiches will be served on Sixteen Bricks bread, which will also be sold at the deli.
 
The specialty shop will also have milk, bread, eggs, beer, wine and liquor for sale, and the deli portion will have rotating specials like at old-school delis, like chicken cordon bleu or beef stroganoff.
 
“We want The Gruff to be a place where the neighborhood and extended community feels comfortable and welcome,” Kristin says. “We plan to be a resource to the community that brings amazing food and a unique experience to Covington. As Covington residents, we see the potential in the city to become known as a destination again, and with the location at the base of the bridge we hope to be an important part of that.”
 
Once open, The Gruff’s hours will be 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.
 
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