Businesses celebrate bridge’s reopening

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The Roebling Suspension Bridge reopened to cars today for the first time since April. (Photo courtesy of Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.)

Weekend events build excitement in Roebling Point District 

COVINGTON, Ky. - Discounted beverages and food. Commemorative cups. A symbolic game that stretches across the Ohio River.
 
Businesses in Covington's Roebling Point District are celebrating the re-opening of the historic Suspension Bridge today with events this weekend they hope grab the attention of "old friends" - the commuters and tourists who habitually used the bridge to drive or walk across the river but had to change their patterns while the bridge was repaired.
 
"Roebling Point is a very vibrant, very popular district with a lot of attractive places to eat, get a drink, and hang out - but there's no doubt that businesses there were hurt by the prolonged closure of the bridge," City Manager David Johnston said. "But now it's open again, and this is a great opportunity for Covington fans to come back and support them."
 
Among the weekend's attractions: 
  • Commemorative plastic "Roebling Returns" cups whose use earns discounts on beer, iced coffees and other drinks at Smoke Justic, The Gruff, Molly Malone's, Keystone Bar & Grill, Lil's Bagels, and Roebling Point Books & Coffee. The cups are available at any of the locations and honored at all. 
  • Other food and drink specials. 
  • The weekly Covington Farmers Market, held 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Third Street between Court and Greenup streets. Cups will also be available at the Market. 
  • And "the world's largest game of telephone" organized by Renaissance Covington, the non-profit dedicated to bringing vitality to downtown through the national Main Street America program. The popular children's "whisper game" will station people across the bridge as they pass a message on down the line. It starts at noon. 
Special commemoration cups sponsored by Renaissance Covington will earn patrons discounts at many Roebling Point District restaurants and bars this weekend.

RCov had originally planned a bigger festival but the uncertain timing of the bridge's reopening made that difficult to plan, Executive Director Nick Wade said.
 
"But this is kind of fun and kind of symbolic in that the two states are connected again," Wade said.
 
Roebling Point Books & Coffee is offering a quirky 18.66 percent on iced coffees and other cold drinks served in the cup to honor the bridge's original opening in 1866, owner Richard Hunt said.
 
"We're ecstatic that the bridge is open again, and our customers are too," Hunt said. "We had all kinds of people in here this morning, high-fiving us."
 
Hunt said business between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. had dropped 75 percent during the bridge's closure. The route to Cincinnati across the Suspension Bridge runs right past the shop, and "people used to pull in for 90 seconds and get a cup of coffee and say 'hello' - but suddenly they were forced to take a different route through Newport or across the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge," he said.
 
Kristin Steuber, who owns and operates The Gruff at the base of the bridge, said the restaurant felt the closure less severely than it did a previous emergency closure last year because one of the sidewalks remained open much of the time. But on the days that both sidewalks were blocked, she definitely noticed fewer customers.
 
"We get a lot of people walking over to (Reds and Bengals) games and to the park (in Cincinnati) ... and a lot of people who walk over here," Steuber said. "We're certainly not complaining that the bridge is open," she said, laughing.
 
The closure
More than 8,000 cars a day cross the Suspension Bridge, along with countless pedestrians.
 
But its roadway and upriver sidewalk had been closed since April 17, after large chunks of sandstone suddenly fell from the east side of the north tower. The downriver walkway remained open much of that time.
 
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet hired a contractor to install temporary netting using an innovative belting and rigging system that kept them from having to drill anchoring bolts into the 152-year-old historic bridge. The emergency procedure required a more extensive process than traditional bridge work due to preservation requirements and special permitting. 
 
The net will remain in place until spring 2020, when a previously planned restoration project addressing routine maintenance - including permanent repairs to the sandstone towers and pedestrian walkways - begins. That project is in the design phase and will require the bridge to be shut to all traffic.
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