7 recipients of small business assistance epitomize ‘all character, no chains’ brand

The Empanada’s Box, a South American-themed restaurant, will be moving to 212 W. Pike St. from Cincinnati in June.

COVINGTON, Ky. – A specialty South American restaurant, a cigar lounge, a specialized chiropractic care business, a destination bourbon bar, a legacy auto repair center, and a flower truck delivery business all received funds during the recent round of Covington’s Small Business Incentive Program.

The Covington Board of Commissioners recently approved $41,655 of program funding to benefit seven projects in the fourth round of incentives in the 2021-22 budget year. That leaves $54,010 to support future application rounds.

Covington’s Economic Development Assistant Director Sarah Allan said the eclectic and unique nature of the businesses was a nod to The Cov’s robust support of and reputation for small, local businesses, in contrast to nationally owned “chain” outlets.

“We mean it when we say, ‘all character, no chains,’ ” Allan said, referencing a phrase in the Economic Development Department’s new branding language.

“Our new business incentive program puts our money where our values are,” she added. “This latest round of incentive recipients illustrates the diversity of businesses we have here in Covington, from flower trucks to empanada restaurants to cutting-edge chiropractors.”

In Fiscal Year 2022, the Board of Commissioners approved $150,000 for the program to provide approximately 25 rent subsidy or façade improvement incentives to Covington businesses.

The recently approved applicants:

Rent subsidies:

  • The Empanada’s Box at 212 W. Pike St. is a specialty South American restaurant focused on making quality empanadas for retail and wholesale. The restaurant currently operates out of Findlay Launch in Cincinnati but decided to make the permanent move to Covington. The business has signed a three-year lease. The business was approved for $6,000. The minority-owned business plans to hire three new employees and will seek to hire Covington residents.
  • Cut & Smoke at 417 Scott St. is a cigar lounge and a veteran-owned business. It signed a seven-year lease, has a proposed start-up investment of $25,000, and will add an estimated $91,160 each year in new annual payroll. It was approved for $6,000.
  • Align Spinal Care at 140 W. Pike St. is a new type of business to Covington, specializing in NUCCA chiropractic care which focuses on correcting misalignments in the upper neck region of the spine. Align Spinal signed a five-year lease and was approved for $6,000.

Façade loans:

  • Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar at 629 Main St. will receive $5,655 in façade improvement funds that will allow for updating this destination business by replacing the door, windows, and allow for new painting.
  • Liable Auto Repair at 4002 Decoursey Ave. will receive $6,000 for façade improvements. This legacy business, in a highly visible area of Latonia, will invest in new paint, new doors, and signage.
  • Mugsy Development, LLC at 327 Pike St. will receive $6,000 for façade improvements that will improve the building’s appearance and leverage private money. While located in the city’s downtown area, the commercial space is on a section of Pike St. that needs attention.
  • TPT Playground, LLC at 115 W. 15 St. will receive $6,000 for a façade improvement project that with enhance the appearance for the new location of Scarlett Begonia’s Flower Truck. The business will leverage private money and is located in a neighborhood that has seen little investment.

The approved applicants leveraged a nearly 2:1 ratio of private-to-public investment and will retain and grow two existing Covington businesses and support five businesses new to the city.

Andy Liable, owner of Liable Auto Repair, expects the funds to have a positive impact on his business and the neighborhood.

“The improvements to my shop will make that corner more visible, which will not only make this part of the neighborhood safer but also more attractive,” Liable said.

Allan said City officials were pleased with the variety of Covington neighborhoods and business districts represented in this round of recipients, including Latonia, Peaselburg, MainStrasse Village, Old Town/Mutter Gottes, Westside, and Roebling Point. She said she hopes to see even more neighborhoods applying in the next round of applicants, which is due July 29.

About the incentives

But the parameters of the program might change.

“Pending approval from the Commission, look for updated incentive guidelines – and possibly a brand-new small business incentive program – which will be announced toward the end of June,” Allan said.

In the meantime, applicants should use the existing guidelines/applications found at the RENT SUBSIDY and FAÇADE IMPROVEMENT links on the City’s Economic Development webpage to start gathering information needed to submit a full application in July.

The rent subsidy program offers a grant of up to $500 a month for first-year rent. The façade program is a forgivable loan of up to $6,000 to match investment dollar-for-dollar in exterior improvements to a commercial building.

Businesses who are interested in applying for either incentive should contact Allan at (859) 292-2144 or

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