Pokemon Go players welcome at many Lexington businesses, but not all

Pokemon Go players at University of Kentucky

Reporter Andrew Henderson talks to Pokemon Go players on the University of Kentucky campus.
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Reporter Andrew Henderson talks to Pokemon Go players on the University of Kentucky campus.

Pokemon Go may be the game name on everyone’s lips, but area businesses have had starkly different reactions to virtual critter hunters that darken their real doors.

Palmers Fresh Grill at Lexington Green has a posted sign specifically aimed at Pokemon Go players saying only paying customers are welcome inside.

“It’s been a bigger disservice than I thought an app would be,” said Megan Martin, one of the managers at Palmer’s, noting some of the non-paying Pokemon hunters wound up within a foot of a guest eating food at a table.

Other Lexington businesses are far more welcoming and have seen sharp upticks in foot traffic from the game, which requires players to walk or drive very slowly for their phones to pick up various game characters, as gamers put on their walking shoes and backpacks seeking “Pokespots.”

Upstairs from Palmer’s, it’s a different story as Joseph-Beth Booksellers is an avid purveyor of Pokemon goods and markets its four Pokestops and “gym” where players gather to battle each other.

“We’re all for it, if it helps us get foot traffic in the door,” Travis Rison, merchandise manager at Joseph-Beth, said. “It allows us to better serve customers who may not have come in before.”

At Patchen Pub off Richmond Road, assistant manager Cassandra Riley said the game has been a good experience for the business.

“Last night (Monday) there were at least a dozen people tracking Pokemon around the building,” Riley said.

For the most part, people coming in are pub regulars, Riley said, but “if it does increase business and traffic, that’s perfect.”

Molly Davis, director of the Arboretum on Alumni Drive, said that the state botanical garden has been “absolutely inundated” with visitors since the game started last week.

“Starting on Sunday, we had a real influx of people who had their eyes on their phones,” Davis said. “They would run into each other sometimes, because they couldn’t take their eyes off their phones.”

Even the Herald-Leader has a PokeStop: The newspaper’s decorated horse at its Midland Avenue entrance is a Pokemon Go “gym.”

A business does not have to be in operation to be a PokeStop: Facebook reports indicate that the now-closed Coba Cocina restaurant in Idle Hour is a gym as well.

Downtown is awash in Pokespots, according to a Reddit Pokemon Go group, or, as one player described it, “lit with Pokemon.” Triangle Park is a popular destination, as is Thoroughbred Park and the water fountains around the courthouse and at Triangle Park.

One player described his experience driving 5 mph in a south Lexington neighborhood searching for Pokemon characters, which vary in value.

Amanda Duncan, a Lexington Pokemon Go player and member of the Facebook Lexington Pokemon Go group, said that she has had nothing but good experiences with the app.

“A lot of businesses have been very open and friendly about it,” she said in an e-mail. “I’ve encountered employees that also play Pokemon Go where they have Pokestops. They’ve even given me tips of what’s in their area.”

The University of Kentucky apparently has many Pokestops, but UK spokesman Jay Blanton said that daytime foot traffic doesn’t appear appreciably higher, since the university already hosts orientations and summer students.

“We think it’s likely folks are playing later in the afternoon and evening, as there’s a good deal of open space on campus as well as the kinds of places and statues that the game is likely to incorporate,” Blanton said. “So, we are sure there are several on our campus that are prime spots.”

“Our perspective is that Pokemon Go is a fun way for people to explore, and as long as they are being responsible — playing with folks they know and watching where they are going when they are walking — we’re happy to have them on our campus.”

Cheryl Truman: 859-231-3202, @CherylTruman

BBB says be careful with Pokemon Go

The Better Business Bureau of Central Kentucky has advised players of the popular game Pokemon Go to be cautious about the cost and destinations involved in playing.

The BBB on Tuesday issued a release telling players to watch out for how much data the Pokemon Go app uses on their phones, as they may later be surprised by a costly data overage for the month. Players were also urged to keep as much of their information as possible private when playing the game, and the Bureau advises creating an account through the app itself rather than signing with with a Google account.

The BBB said a malware version of the game has been found online, although no known infections have been reported.

Players should use caution in strange locations while pursuing the virtual reality Pokemon characters, the BBB said, and be cautious as pedestrians and obey all traffic laws.