For decades, Jim and Donna Salyers have renovated historic buildings in downtown Covington and filled them with such successful businesses as The Madison Event Center, Donna Salyers’ Fabulous Furs and Donna Salyers’ Fabulous Bridal. Their family business now is launching the upscale Hotel Covington, which they say will pick up on Covington’s enticing vibe, complete on the first floor with a quality restaurant that will show Northern Kentucky hospitality, plus a bar and large street-level patio to extend the welcome. 

Q: You recently broke ground on the $21.5 million, 114-room luxury boutique Hotel Covington, in the building once occupied by Coppin’s department store, at 638 Madison Ave., and most recently occupied by City Hall. Why so bullish on Covington?

A: I think it’s proximity. Everybody talks location, location, location. I think that’s a huge benefit. We’re dealing with a macro trend that’s going on now of movement back to the urban core. The buildings in Covington—and you could almost talk about both sides of the river—and Bellevue, Newport, all the river cities, even in Downtown Cincinnati, there are beautiful buildings, an amazing inventory of building stock. We’re seeing incredible development going on at The Banks, on the other side of the river, and OTR. And we see Covington as the next. 

Q: What will the rooms be like?

A: It’s in the upper-upscale category, so they’ll have top-quality finishes. The typical hotel room in the United States is about 300 or so square feet. Ours will be north of 400, with some rooms being 650. We have fantastic views of Downtown Cincinnati from the fourth floor and above. On Madison Avenue, there are no tall structures, other than the Coppin’s building. Everything else terminates at about three stories. 

Q: You’ve said you want to create a street-level community space, with a hotel on top of it.

A: The first floor for us is really the essence of the property. And that’s what Aparium Hotel Group (which is developing and will manage the property) does so well, is make that first floor the true vibe of the property. And we want that patio to be truly activated, and busy. That’s why we’re pushing so hard to open by early summer next year, so that we can really enjoy the spring-summer food and beverage season. Get people outside, and do public events, and expose locals to the hotel. Have fun things, movie nights. We want to bring back Sunday roasts. And that extends into the food and beverage program as well. Our goal is to be a Top Three restaurant in Greater Cincinnati.

Q: What kind of restaurant will it be?

A: We’re still working on the concept. We feel it’s going to take exceptional ingredients and make it approachable to all of us. We want to go against the grain of pretentious dining, and make it very communal. A big thing about our branding, a thing we identified is NOSO, and NOSO means it’s not the north, and it’s not the south. We have a lot of similarities to the northern side of the river, Cincinnati and further to the north. So we’re kind of this little oasis that’s very passionate not to be thrown in with Kentucky, but certainly we’re prideful of being in Kentucky. But it’s more about Northern Kentucky than it is about Kentucky. That’s something we’re permeating throughout the property, and even to the point where the restaurant, we suspect at this point will be called NOSO at the Hotel Covington. How that informs the food and the programming is again, it’s that element of Northern Kentucky has that very welcoming, open, yet prideful, regionalism.