by Dave Overton
Walking a few short blocks down South Limestone takes you from the University of Kentucky to downtown Lexington. It also takes you past restaurants and shops featuring the cuisines of eight countries on four continents. Most of these businesses are small mom and pop operations, only a few are members of national chains. But theyâ€™re all suffering from the cityâ€™s construction work to beautify Limestone and upgrade existing storm sewers.
Starting at the construction barricades at Avenue of Champions youâ€™ll find Pazzoâ€™s, wellknown for both its pizza and its pint nights. Buy a pitcher of the featured beer and you can take home a logo beer glass. Next to Pazzoâ€™s is Tolly Ho, a Lexington and University institution since 1971. Tolly Ho, widely known as The Ho, features breakfast foods, hamburgers, fries and other traditional student foods.
Just up the street, youâ€™ll find varied international cuisine. Punjab II offers an Indian lunch buffet daily and a full menu of Indian food for both dinner and lunch. The Banana Leaf offers an Indian and Malaysian buffet for lunch as well as a full menu. Right next to Sqecial Media, in the same building, is the Han Woo Ri Korean Restaurant featuring a small but delicious menu of authentic Korean cuisine.
Farther down, at Maxwell, Savâ€™s Grill offers traditional West African cuisine. Past the houses and condos on the left side of the street is Failte, a small shop selling imported Irish foods and gifts. At the north end of the construction, Bombay Brazier features upscale white tablecloth Indian cuisine.
The street is closed off with construction fencing making crossing difficult and the dust and construction equipment make navigation a challenge somewhat akin to a live game of Frogger. Nearby parking is scarce and will become even scarcer with the return of the University students.
As can be expected, business is down along the entire length of the street. Some restaurants report 40 to 50 percent decreases in business while the Bombay Brazier has lost all of its outdoor patio business to the dust and noise.
Some nearby merchants have pitched in with voluntary efforts to help. Rob Morris, of Lowellâ€™s Independent Automotive has organized what he calls LexMobs. Rob organizes groups of people to have lunch at the affected restaurants in an effort to help alleviate some of the damage caused by the construction. He also offers free parking at his establishment just off North Limestone while participating. For a schedule, see Robâ€™s blog at lowells.typepad.com.
The businesses themselves are making their own efforts to bring in customers. Some are currently offering the Hannahâ€™s on Lime stimulus program, offering a 10 percent discount to customers showing a receipt from another participating business.
A recently hosted South Limestone Block Party was a big enough success that the merchants plan to repeat it, coinciding with a gallery hop. Business owners have formed a merchantâ€™s association and have been meeting every couple of weeks.
The businesses at the downtown end of Limestone appear to be the most badly affected. Failte owner, Liza Hendley Betz is even considering relocating her business to another downtown location. She has seen a decrease in foot traffic, first when the Lexington Farmerâ€™s Market relocated, but more now with the Limestone construction. Bombay Brazier has had to consider laying off staff.
The city has opened up some parking for Limestone merchants at the LexTran lot. Meanwhile, at the south end of the construction, merchants hope the return of the University students will bring back prosperity. Punjab is offering them a 10 percent discount hoping to draw them back to the area.
We canâ€™t afford to lose these restaurants and other businesses. They are a unique cultural and culinary experience. Take a walk down South Limestone or visit one of the events being planned or join the LexMob for lunch. Youâ€™ll be glad you did.