By Lorie Hailey
(Editor’s note: This is part four in our series about how Kentucky businesses are responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19. See the full report.)
When Gov. Andy Beshear ordered all Kentucky restaurants and bars to close to in-person service to slow the spread of COVID-19, there was a ripple effect on other businesses and individuals, including musicians, entertainers and events planners.
The closures have required creative business solutions, and many have stepped up to that challenge. Several music venues have offered live performance videos and other footage on their websites and Facebook pages, helping performers find alternate ways to connect with their fans.
Don and Ruth Willoughby’s Lexington company Local Trivia Action has hosted live trivia games in numerous establishments across the state for 20 years, including more than 55 live games seven nights a week in Lexington, Georgetown, Northern Kentucky and Louisville. The Willoughbys were concerned not only about their business but the bar and restaurant community to which they are connected.
The Willoughbys wrestled with how to handle the COVID-19 closures. Not knowing how long the threat of COVID-19 was going to last made it difficult for to determine a course of action.
“We have a lot of regular players. Across the city of Lexington, on any given evening, we would have up to 450 players at different bars and restaurants. Weekly, there was usually more than one show that had more than 100 people play at a time,” said Ruth Willoughby, who handles the administrative side of the business. Her husband, Don, writes all of the trivia questions and hosts games.
“This trivia business was built out of a love of trivia and its operational processes. Don loves writing trivia and hosting trivia. I enjoy interacting with our staff and partners and customers. We miss it,” Ruth said. “Faced with total closure of operations, we wanted to do something to continue to bring trivia joy to people. We needed to have a purpose.”
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They came up with a way to bring trivia to their patrons while promoting loyalty to the businesses that have hosted their games: presenting virtual games every day through Local Trivia Action’s Facebook page. It includes a live drawing for gift cards and other prizes thanks to a partnership with some of the bars and restaurants where their games have been held for years.
It is not now a money-making venture, but the virtual games play an important role.
“We are able to give to our customers and others something we feel is valuable,” Ruth said. “We can keep our skills up with the business. We can connect with humans that don’t live with us. We can help, by name dropping and tagging our trivia partners, such as Shamrock, Good Foods Co-op, Broomwagon, Whole Foods Market, Girlsgirlsgirls Burritos, The Cellar and Drake’s. And we can, hopefully, stay relevant to our customers and partners, which we hope allows us to ensure Local Trivia Action has a future as a business post-quarantine.”
There are two games with 20 questions each weekday, a family-friendly one earlier in the day and one for the regular bar crowd in the evening. Teams are encouraged to work together remotely, using video conferencing, text messaging or even phone calls to come up with the answers and submit them via FB message to Local Trivia Action. Occasionally, there is a pop-up, themed trivia quiz.
Regular trivia patrons have been participating, but the virtual games have also attracted new players.
“We have at least one family-friendly game a day on weekdays, so we have a whole new population of trivia fans,” Ruth said. “We’ve seen some people pop up on the trivia page who haven’t played live before. We are also seeing players from other cities and even states play our Facebook trivia games.”
Participants come up with humorous and topical team names and enjoy competing against each other. Some of the more recent virtual team names have had a quarantine theme such as Still Nothing to Do … Still Not Cleaning; Dancing With Myself; Are Andy Beshear and Virginia at Least 6 Feet Apart?; and Cornteam.
The games have been a popular way for friends to connect while practicing social distancing. Amanda Lloyd, a counselor at Dixie Magnet Elementary School in Lexington, said Local Trivia Action’s virtual games are a good distraction from global pandemic anxiety. She shared a photo of Dixie staff and teachers playing one of the trivia games together using Zoom video conferencing.
“The continuity of anything normal during a crisis like this is therapeutic,” Lloyd said. “We adults are managing our own fears and worries and trying to maintain as much of a stable life as we can for our families. Having lighthearted entertainment really does help with trying to navigate our new normal.”
Share your story
We want to hear how business leaders across the state have responded to the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the efforts to stop the spread of it. If your business would like to share its story, email Lorie at [email protected].