LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For the first time in a long time, bars and restaurants across Kentucky will return to seating guests at 100% capacity following lifting restrictions on Friday.

What You Need To Know

  • COVID-19 capacity restrictions and nearly all of the mask mandates are being removed in Kentucky Friday

  • Lousivlle restaurants are preparing to return to 100% capacity this weekend

  • Staffing issues have hurt Goose Creek Diner and Gander, restaurant owners said

  • Customers thrilled to see life getting back to normal

Chris Mike, owner of Goose Creek Diner and Gander in Louisville, said Friday has been a long time coming.

"Literally [I was] up all night [with] tears, it was over. I thought there was no way we’re going to survive on carry out even with rent if they help us out," Mike said.

It’s a day businesses have waited more than a year for including Mike. Reflecting over that past year, he's thankful to have survived this far after pivoting hard to takeout. Now, he's looking at the glass half full.

"Honestly from the kitchen standpoint, we were very fortunate to get the PPP loans so we’re were able to keep a lot of our staff," Mike explained.

With COVID-19 mitigation orders lifted, Friday is the first full day where businesses can open at 100% capacity in over a year. 

"Definitely the mask. I am happy to get rid of that," Mike said.

On Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear tweeted that Kentucky is relaxing restrictions which will allow businesses to once again operate at full capacity and nearly all the mask mandate will expire.

"I think everything he’s [Beshear] done he’s done with a good heart, had the best intentions for all the restaurants and people. It's been very slow, I think it was a little late in coming," explains Mike.

He has about 40 employees between its two restaurants. The father of two said that as capacity limits expand, so will employment.

"We’re still trying to get staff back up to handle the increase business. So, we might not necessarily add anymore tables right away to the restaurant," Mike said.

Customers like Shirley Stivers and Susan Hatchett said it's the right time to fully open businesses if you have received your COVID vaccine.

"It’s a pleasure to see everybody’s face and to be able to smile at them because all you could see was their eyes," Stivers said.

"We took for granted going out before the COVID-19 hit and once COVID-19 hit, we hated it," Hatchett said.

Overall, the staff is most excited about getting back to doing what they love doing – serving the community.

"We made the small adjustments over the year and so now we’re right where we need to be moving into this weekend," Mike said.

Beshear will be hosting his last regular COVID-19 briefing Friday at 12:30 p.m. You can watch that full update here on Spectrum News 1.