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Quarles: 'Time to Eat Out,' Support Local Businesses Again

Lisa Autry

Following more than a year of restrictions due to the pandemic, Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner is pressing Gov. Andy Beshear to set a reopening date for restaurants, bars, and other businesses. 

Ryan Quarles held a roundtable discussion in Bowling Green on Wednesday with farmers and restaurant owners, as well as food suppliers and distributors.

Quarles said bars and restaurants have suffered more under the coronavirus than any other industry.  He’s on a listening tour around the state, hearing from business owners who have struggled under what Quarles calls inconsistent and confusing executive orders from the governor’s office.

Gov. Beshear has said many capacity restrictions and curfews on bars and restaurants would be lifted once 2.5 million residents receive their first vaccination.  But Quarles says Kentucky needs a reopening date instead of a reopening metric.

“We’re hearing from restaurant owners across Kentucky that when states like California already have a clear reopening date, I think states like Kentucky can do the same, and we can do it in a responsible way," Quarles said.

At the current pace of vaccinations, Kentucky will hit the 2.5 million mark for vaccinations in June. 

Quarles has been critical of Beshear’s COVID-19 restrictions, and the Republican says he’s considering a challenge to the Democratic governor in 2023.

“We want to make sure we want to stand up for farm families and that’s what my focus has been this past year and will continue to be," Quarles said. "I am considering running for governor, but at the same time, it’s early, and I think it’s important to focus on the task ahead of us. I’ve always felt like if you have good policy, the politics will follow.”

Beshear and Quarles have also squabbled over control of the State Fair Board, which the Republican-led General Assembly shifted control of from the governor to the agriculture commissioner in this year's legislative session.  State lawmakers also moved the Office of Agriculture Policy out of Beshear’s office and into the Department of Agriculture.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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