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Tourists a sign of hope for Louisville downtown businesses

After a year of COVID travel restrictions, businesses that rely on foot traffic are eager to see tourists return to Louisville.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Fourth of July holiday was set to be a big travel weekend across the country. For local businesses, out of town guests are a welcome sight after months of pandemic restrictions.

This time last year, Eric Talbott’s clothing store on 5th Street was boarded up, amid protests. Now, not even the boards are left.

RELATED: Downtown businesses continue to feel brunt of pandemic, look forward to reopening

"No one was coming downtown any longer and I was forced to close my doors,” Talbott said.

Talbott cut back to just his location inside the Galt House, a business model that means he leans on tourists.

"When they come to town, they leave things, or they just like to pick something new up. And I've found it really works for me,” he said.

Talbott says tourists have been hard to come by, until this weekend. With many restrictions lifted, and people itching to travel, they're eager to shop.

“It feels great, it gives you hope that the future is bright again, and so it’s a good thing to see people out and about living their lives and spending dollars,” he said.

Fourth of July weekend, those vacationers have also been eager to eat.

"It's been unexpectedly busy,” Against the Grain bar manager Brady Frederick said.

Frederick is used to baseball traffic from Louisville Bats games, but the tourism rush is more than welcome.

"Fourth Street Live usually benefits a little bit more than us, but with Angel's Envy right across the street we get a lot of tourists going there for tastings and tours,” he said.

Frederick says the restaurant, like so many others, is struggling with staffing, a sign things aren't back to normal yet.

"We're getting there but I think it'll take a lot more work than we're used to,” he said.

Eric Talbott is still looking to expand his store, hoping to re-open a second location somewhere downtown. The challenge is reminding locals of the businesses that are right in their backyards.

"I'm here, I'm open, I'm ready to do business so come and see me,” he said.

Talbott said his shop has mostly seen regional travelers, people from Nashville, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

At Against the Grain, Frederick has seen a wide range, with customers coming from places like Florida and New York.

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